Denial of zoning waiver for Marietta mosque questioned

Posted: Friday, January 03, 2003

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) -- Some Cobb County residents are questioning a city panel's decision barring construction of a 70-foot minaret atop a planned mosque.

The city Zoning Board denied a request from mosque leaders to build the minaret on the Islamic house of worship even though the city granted comparable variances for two taller church steeples in 1998. The 20,000-square-foot mosque, Masjid Al-Hedaya, still will be built.

The local zoning board denied that prejudice influenced the decision.

''We said no because of the height and the objection of neighbors,'' Chairman James Mills said. Board member Roy Schultz said he visited the property and determined a 70-foot minaret in that area ''would look like the Eiffel Tower.''

But another board member, William Wilkerson, believed religious differences were partly to blame for neighbors' opposition. More than 100 residents packed a Dec. 16 board meeting on the minaret and many asked questions unrelated to the spire, he said.

''People did not object to the height of the tower, they objected to the mosque being there in the first place,'' he said.

Zoning rules in the area bar structures over 35 feet high. But the board had allowed one church to build a 175-foot steeple and another to erect a 102-foot spire.

Mosque director Amjad Taufique said ''fear of the unknown'' may be behind the board's decision and he is considering inviting neighbors to meet with him to discuss the mosque's activities. He hasn't decided whether to appeal.

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