Mosque gets approval to grow

Despite protests, the county okays an expansion to 6,700 square feet.

Published May 15, 2007

BROOKSVILLE - Hernando County's lone mosque received approval Monday for a significant expansion.

The Barclay Avenue mosque plans to expand to more than seven times its current size, creating a single-story building with space for offices, community events and 3, 790 square feet of assembly space for prayer.

The five-member Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended approval to revise a special use permit that will allow the expansion of the mosque.

Neighbors complained Monday about the noise and traffic from the mosque. Afterward, several criticized the commissioners for not giving them enough time to air their concerns.

Dr. Husam Shuayb, spokesman for the mosque, assured the board that the first daily prayers begin about 6 a.m., and that the last prayers of the day by 10:30 p.m. at the latest.

Commissioner Anna-Liisa Covell noted that the commission did not restrict the hours of worship at churches, and could not do so in this case.

County officials explained that the mosque expansion would not interfere with plans to widen Barclay Avenue from a two-lane to a four-lane road. The commission added a condition that the expanded facility connect to the county sewer system when it becomes available.

Ryan Huff, who is building her "dream house" on a neighboring lot, said she hadn't planned on a nearly 6, 700-square-foot complex next door.

Clearly disappointed by the vote, Huff waylaid Shuayb outside the commission chambers. "Sir, " she asked, "do you want to buy my house?"

Puzzled, Shuayb explained that he already owned a house.

The land is owned by the North American Islamic Trust, an organization based in Chicago. The trust owns about 300 properties in the United States, but does not administer the day-to-day operations, according to the organization's Web site.

In other business, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved 3-1 a decision that will allow Jericho Road Ministries to create a women's shelter on 3.3 acres on Howell Avenue. Commissioner Bob Widmar voted against the proposal; Covell recused herself because she has been a supporter and vendor for Jericho Road Ministries.

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at aloder@sptimes.com or 352754-6127.