If the Anjuman-e-Burhani mosque is ever built near Microsoft and Nintendo offices in Redmond, the small Dawoodi Bohra sect of Islam would have its first spiritual and community center in the Seattle metro area.
Its members — many of whom are information-technology professionals living and working in Redmond or Sammamish — say the location is perfect. Since they bought the 1.2-acre property in 2010, they have overcome several hurdles to transform the once-dilapidated site, says member Hozaifa Cassubhai, 36.
They’ve paid thousands of dollars to remove more than 500 tons of garbage, including abandoned cars from the site. Mosque planners have gone through more than two years of a back-and-forth design-review process with the city. They’ve arranged to have overflow parking and shuttle service on special occasions with a nearby Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter’s lot.
This month the membership of about 150 people will face what they hope is the last hurdle: easing the concerns of nearby residents already weary from the crush of traffic associated with a growing Eastside population.
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More than 300 people — many opposed to the mosque that would be built east of Highway 520 on Northeast 51st Street — last week packed a community meeting organized by the city and are expected to attend another meeting next Wednesday. The next day, the city’s Design Review Board may approve permits for the more-than-20,000-square-foot building.
Among them will be Sam Weirbach, 63, who, like many others opposed to the mosque’s construction, says he doesn’t have a problem with Islam — he just wants the city to take growing traffic more seriously.
“I don’t care whether it’s a Muslim, Catholic, Baptist or Mormon church — it doesn’t matter,” said Weirbach, who would like to see houses built on the lot instead. “I’m saying a building like that where you can’t predict the traffic concerns five, 10 years down the road shouldn’t go there, and neither should something like an apartment building.”
Cassubhai said mosque planners have been working with the city to mitigate traffic and parking impacts in the area and will continue to do so. But he expects that on most days the mosque would not draw much traffic in the first place because the Anjuman-e-Burhani membership in the entire Seattle metro area is so small.
He expects that parking for 30 to 40 vehicles — 100 if they double-park — should be more than enough for most services throughout the year. For rare occasions when cultural events draw the entire community, he said they’ve planned ahead for overflow parking at the VFW lot.
“Some of their concerns are bigger issues that are not specific to our property, and a lot of the same issues would potentially exist without us,” Cassubhai said of those opposed to the mosque’s construction. “These are logistical concerns that are valid, though, and need to be part of the conversation.”
According to the city’s
presentation at last week’s meeting, the mosque’s traffic is expected to happen mostly during off-peak hours. The city anticipated a maximum of 21 additional trips during peak hours.
The city declined to make planners or other staff members available for interviews about the mosque — which would be the city’s third — but did release a statement describing the city’s intentions to celebrate its growing diversity.
Cassubhai said that Dawoodi Bohra is a sub-sect of Shia Islam and that a large part of its membership is of Indian or Pakistani descent. The sub-sect makes up a small portion of Muslims throughout the world and less than 2 percent of the Seattle metro area’s entire Muslim population.
As a husband and father of an 18-month-old daughter, Cassubhai said he’s hoping members don’t have to wait much longer to have a place of their own to share traditions.
“It’s nice to be able to pass some of that onto the next generation and have a space that is not only a spiritual center, but a community center — the value of that is immeasurable.”
Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.