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Temecula residents square off over proposed mosque

January 25, 2011 |  9:50 pm

The Temecula resident leading the challenge to a proposed mosque urged his allies to refrain from lashing out at Islamic religious beliefs, saying that to deny the project based on religion would be "un-American."

George Rombach, president of Concerned American Citizens, appeared before the City Council on Tuesday night for a public hearing on the proposed mosque in this conservative Riverside County city. 

He said he opposes the project because it would greatly increase traffic on nearby streets and accused the city of giving the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley "preferential treatment'" by exempting the proposed mosque from a full environmental review.

The city's planning commission unanimously approved the project in early December.

Rombach appealed that ruling to the City Council, which is expected to vote on the proposed mosque after a public hearing Tuesday night.

At the packed hearing, city planners said that the project meets all legal requirements, including environmental reviews, and that the city-commissioned traffic study shows the mosque will not have any detrimental impact on neighborhood streets.

Plans by the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley to build a 24,943-square-foot mosque on a vacant 4-acre plot in northeast Temecula has been attacked by opponents who said the mosque will attract Islamic extremists and overwhelm the neighborhood with congestion.

City Atty. Peter Thorson told the City Council that they can only consider land use issues in considering the project.

Basing any decision on any religious, political or social factor would be a violation of freedom of religion protected by the 1st Amendment, he said.

Hadi Nael, chairman of the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley, appeared before the council early in the evening to dispel concerns that there may be loud calls to prayer. He said there would be no calls to prayer outside of the mosque.

Nael later asked the council to give the mosque the same consideration that it would give any other religious facility.

-- Phil Willon in Temecula