Mosque Applicant Urged to Double Parking Spaces
Four-hour hearing on application to build mosque in Liberty Corner begins with disagreement over necessary parking.
A four-hour continued hearing on a proposal for a 4,252-square-foot mosque in Liberty Corner Village began Tuesday with the applicant's attorney saying he had learned the board's professionals now are asking that 110 parking spaces be provided for the house of worship if it is built, rather than the 50 spaces in the application.
The board's attorney, Jonathan Drill, said that he and David Banisch, planner for the township had concluded that number was appropriate as guided by 2010 International Traffic Engineers standards for mosques, as compared with churches and synagogues.
That brought a quick objection from Vincent Bisogno, attorney for the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge.
Bisogno said more than doubling the required parking spaces would ignore the township's own ordinances.
"Have you ever done this in the past where you raised the number of parking spaces?" asked Bisogno, a local attorney. He asked whether the churches or synagogues built in Basking Ridge had to follow the same rules.
Drill said that the society's own traffic engineer, Henry Ney, had mentioned the ITE when he was asked at a previous meeting if there is an objective standard for setting appropriate parking for mosques. He said the differentiated standards for parking for houses of worship were not released by the ITE until 2010.
Board Member Kevin Orr said he had been been asking "since day one" for the applicant to provide an objective standard for acceptable parking for a mosque. The hearings on the application began last August.
Orr said that the president of the Islamic Society, Ali Chaudry, had initially told the planners that it was his "best guess" that the mosque would serve about 150 members from the Somerset Hills and some surrounding communities.
Drill told Bisogno that it now is up to the applicant to show why fewer than the 110 parking spots are needed.
Bisogno said he was aware that the most attended religious service at the mosque would be from about noon to 2 p.m. on Fridays, and that worshippers might be arriving from work for attendance with only one or two per car. He said that maximum capacity for the mosque's prayer hall would be 142.
But Bisogno affirmed after the meeting that he does not agree with the 110-spot requirement. He also said that a change in parking requirements would affect other aspects of the plan for the mosque on a four-acre property at 124 Chuch Street.
Next meeting on mosque scheduled for Feb. 5
Before the meeting adjourned, Bisogno told the Planning Board that Ney would do additional research into parking patterns at other mosques and have a report by the next scheduled hearing on application at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 5.
Also at that meeting, the architect for the project, Bernardsville-based Dan Lincoln, also president of The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills, also is scheduled to be back at that meeting to answer questions from the Planning Board about his testimony on Tuesday.
Along with drawings of the proposed mosque — which he said was designed to make the building fit in with the neighborhood — Lincoln also answered questions about proposed capacity for the building. Lincoln said a planned multi-purpose room could hold up to 110 people, and he said it would not be used at the same time that services would be underway in a prayer hall.
Lincoln was asked to look into whether there is any way he can slightly lower the height of the roof. He said he does not think he could lower it significantly.
Lincoln also presented samples of some of the exterior materials that would be used for the building, which he said would be gray and covered with a clapboard-style siding.