Proposed Mosque Plans to be Revised Again

Information added: Hearing continuation scheduled for special meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 15.

Rob Simon, an attorney for some residents, with architect Dan Lincoln at a hearing for a proposed mosque in Liberty Corner. By Linda Sadlouskos
Rob Simon, an attorney for some residents, with architect Dan Lincoln at a hearing for a proposed mosque in Liberty Corner. By Linda Sadlouskos
It's been a long road for both the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge, proposing to build a mosque the size of a fairly typical home at the edge of Liberty Corner Village, and the residents living nearby who have expressed doubts about whether such an edifice — and the traffic it would draw — belong at that street corner, in a small village setting.

On Tuesday, at least two dozen residents attended the latest Planning Board hearing where witnesses for the ISBR provided further details about a plan to build a mosque on about four acres at 124 Church Street in Liberty Corner, roughly across the street from the Liberty Corner firehouse.

With the board's approval, the applicant decided to revise parking plans on the property that also would require some additional revisions to the drainage system. The revised parking lot — which board members agreed would seem to be safer — was proposed after the project engineer said the location of an easement on the property in earlier plans was determined to have been incorrect.

Earlier in the meeting, attorney Rob Simon, representing a citizens group, questioned the project's architect, Dan Lincoln, about a proposed lit sign for the mosque that plans show as 20 feet back from the road.

Lincoln said it is the applicant's intention to place a sign that conforms with zoning requirements. Even so, he later said the lighted sign, about six feet high, might need to be 20 feet back from the right-of-way line by the roadside.

Lincoln also said the height of the roof of the prayer hall in the building would be lowered from 34 feet to 31 feet, with a flat roof consistent in the style of other homes in the area.

Lincoln said he had walked through the historic district in Liberty Corner. He testified that the mosque would not be in the historic area, which he said borders a section of the south side of the property.

Engineer Adnan Khan said additional plantings would be placed on the property to provide more screening of lights that would be installed by the parking area.

A few of the residents near the proposed mosque, including next-door neighbor Joseph Abbate, said that some of the parking spaces would be angled so vehicles parking there would shine directly into a bedroom and bath in his home. Khan later said those spots could be moved.

Following some dispute over when the revised plans would be ready, and whether Simon would have time to prepare any objections and line up any potential witnesses following the testimony of the mosque's last planned expert, planner David Zimmerman, the continuation of the hearing was set for a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 15. That meeting is expected to again be held in the courtroom at the municipal building at 1 Collyer Lane, Basking Ridge.

Planning Board attorney Jonathan Drill, with suggestions by Board Member Randy Santoro, said that Simon or the public would have time to prepare any response to the planner's testimony by Feb. 4, the first regular Planning Board meeting scheduled for that month.

The hearing originally was supposed to be continued at a special meeting on Dec. 18, but the applicant would not have been able to revise the plans and submit them by the required 15 days prior to the hearing date.

Simon protested a previously suggested timetable to allow the planner to testify and then to prepare any objections based on a proposal that would be further revised. He said that would be a "waste of time" for the public, especially for citizens paying for fees for professionals such as himself.

Robert Raymar, attorney for the ISBR, also objected to a proposal to schedule meetings late in January and at the end of February for the ISBR planner's testimony, and the public's response. He said the applicant has "bent over backwards" to accommodate suggestions and scheduling requests.

The proposal has been before the Planning Board for more than a year, with the initial formal presentation in summer 2012. Even then, informally discussed plans to renovate the existing home on the property were scrapped, and drawings later were presented for a new 4,200-square-foot building that the applicant said will fit in with the area's historic character.  


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