23 Aug 2014
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Community Raises Questions Regarding Proposed Mt. Sinai Mosque

Community packs planning board meeting Monday with questions regarding a proposed place of worship in Mt. Sinai; decision put on hold.

Community Raises Questions Regarding Proposed Mt. Sinai Mosque

A site plan proposal to convert an existing barn to a place of worship at 515 Mt. Sinai-Coram Road brought the community out in droves to Monday's Planning Board meeting at Brookhaven Town Hall.

Property owner Mohammed Sameen and his lawyer Timothy Shea presented the board and those in attendance with their proposal to convert the 74-by-142.4 square foot barn in to a mosque.

Shea explained that in zoning cases, boards must give deference to religious organizations.

"[Boards] must vet its codes to allow for uses that normally it wouldn't," he said. "However in this case we are not requesting a single variance and have designed this site to meet every single one of the town codes. As such...we are entitled to our site plan grant."

According to Town of Brookhaven code, a house of worship is a permitted use under the A-1 residential zone that the property falls under.

While traffic and parking issues were the chief concerns of those in attendance, some raised other questions such as what would be practiced and taught in the mosque, which would include classrooms as well, and if the property would become tax exempt, among others.

Steven Losquadro represented the Hamlet of Willow Creek Homeowners Association at the meeting, asking for a comprehensive traffic review and for questions about the specifics of this site plan to be answered before it is approved.

David Schoenfeld, who said he lives directly behind the property, was concerned about possible lights in the parking area, excess trees and foliage along with possible outside noise.

"I'm not an attorney but somebody told me that I have a Right to Quiet Enjoyment, and when I bought this property I thought I had that right," Schoenfeld said to the board. "I would ask that you would consider whatever adjustments they are going to make...to allow that their neighbors can still enjoy this particular right."

While some raised issues regarding the plan, others voiced support of the mosque.

"I live three houses down in the villages and think this mosque would be great for a house of worship and for young kids like me to learn more about religion and to understand the ways of being a Muslim," said Hamza Kahn, a senior at Mt. Sinai High School.

Shea later said that the site plan was approved by emergency services and the highway department and assured those in attendance and the board that there are no plans for any outdoor speakers, bells or music. He also said that Sameen is not looking for tax exemption.

They went on to say that services are usually Fridays from 1-2:15 p.m. and that they are first come first serve with alotted parking. Shea said they are also open to the Town posting "No Parking" signs on the street. This would be to stop the possibility of people parking on what could be described as a narrow two-lane road.

Despite Shea's request for approval, the planning board's ultimate decision was to put the plan on hold where another discussion can be held at the next planning board meeting on Feb. 11.

"When people buy a home in a residential area, they expect it to stay residential," said Vincent Pascale, Chairman of the planning board. "Now all of a sudden you see a religious institution, which is still in one sense or another a form of business, and I think that is [the cause] for some of the anxiety. If we can address those issues such as parking and traffic conditions, I think that will go a long way."

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