Revised Mosque Plans Up For Hearing This Summer
UPDATED: Planning Board on Tuesday sets hearing date of Aug. 7 for application.
The Islamic Society of Basking Ridge returned before the Bernards Township Planning Board at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday night with revised plans calling for a new mosque building rather than a renovation of an existing house, at 124 Church Street in historic Liberty Corner.
The board agreed that the application as filed was complete, and set a first hearing date of Aug. 7 for the proposal.
Ali Chaudry, president of the society, said the revised plan for the proposed 4,250-square-foot building would meet zoning requirements and also would be designed in a style to fit in with the street of historic homes.
Chaudry said the proposed 4,250-square-foot building proposed the location, across the street from the Liberty Corner firehouse would be "very much" a Colonial style.
"It's still trying to be very sensitive to the style of the neighborhood," Chaudry said.
"Our project is very modest," he said on Tuesday night.
Chaudry said on Tuesday that between 60 to 70 people now attend Friday prayers at the Islamic Society's current meeting place at the township community center at 289 S. Maple Ave.
A group of at least 20 residents attended Tuesday's brief ruling on the application's completeness. Afterward, residents declined to discuss their opinion of the proposal.
The planned mosque would look much like a house in the neighborhood, he said. A new building also would have more room for parking in the back, rather than near the street, as suggested by board members in January, he noted on Tuesday morning.
The existing house, built before zoning laws, also does not meet requirements for leaving a buffer between the sides structure and neighboring properties, while the new building would do so, Chaudry said.
Chaudry said the mosque building would be about 35 feet high, while a spire could be up to about 45 feet high. He said he was not sure of the exact heights, but noted that zoning laws do not place a limit on steeples for houses of worship, even within a residential area.
The meeting on Tuesday will be a review for whether the application for the new mosque, now reworked since an initial discussion before the board in January, is complete and ready for formal submission to the board, Chaudry said.
He said the group's planners, including architect and historian Dan Lincoln from Bernardsville, are working on drawings of what the new mosque might look like, but the final version hasn't yet been presented to the society's board of trustees.
Chaudry, also a former township mayor, in January said the society already owns the four-bedroom home, located approximately across the street from the Liberty Corner firehouse. He and other professionals who presented the plan said the society had previously reached out to neighbors, the Liberty Corner Fire Co. and First Aid Squad and others in seeking input before establishing a mosque to serve families from nearby in The Hills in other sections of Bernards Township and within the Somerset Hills.
In February, Chaudry said he would like to return before the board with a complete and detailed site plan application by spring, with the intention of opening the center could open some time this year.