Waterloo council to vote on Muslim prayer centre next week

News Jun 20, 2017 by Samantha Beattie Waterloo Chronicle

Council will vote next week on the Muslim Association of Canada’s highly divisive application for a prayer centre on the north west side of the city.

It has been a year since the first public meeting was held in May 2016, in which the Muslim Association requested a zoning bylaw amendment for its property at 510 Erbsville Rd. (in the Laurelwood neighbourhood) from agricultural to institutional and green space. It is requesting to use the existing garage and house to hold daily prayer sessions for, at the most, two dozen people.

In that time, at least two different flyers protesting the prayer centre have circulated the Laurelwood neighbourhood. Opposed residents released a YouTube video, formed a Facebook group (Residents Opposing 510 Erbsville Rd. Rezoning) and created an online petition that now has 750 signatures.

This spring the Muslim Association held a public information meeting with its planners to answer questions. The opposition group held a closed meeting and only those who opposed the prayer centre were invited.

“There's no question this issue has generated the most response in my two and a half years (as councillor),” said Laurelwood ward Coun. Brian Bourke in an email.  

On the other side, a community member created an online petition in support of the prayer centre. It has about 1,300 signatures.

“So many people are waiting anxiously to start praying at the property,” said Asif Manzoor, Muslim Association Kitchener chapter head. “We have kept our spirits high and are hoping for the best results.”

Already, more than 20 delegates have registered to speak at the public meeting.

“We can’t say with certainty that it will be completed in one meeting, although that is our target,” said Tony lavarone, director of communications for the city. “If we get through all of the delegations (registered and unregistered) council can vote on the staff recommendation that night.”

Because of the larger-than-normal crowd, the city will have extra staff and security personnel on hand to ensure the meeting is kept organized and respectful, and to help with sign in.

Residents opposed to the application say they’re worried the prayer centre will increase traffic and noise, and have a negative impact on property values and the natural environment.

To ease concerns, the Muslim Association has submitted to the city an acoustics report, geotechnical investigation, environmental impact study, survey of property, road noise impact statement and potential future conceptual site plan of the largest possible building it would consider one day building — covering about 20 per cent of the total 12,000-square metre property.

In the next decade or so, the Muslim Association envisions constructing a larger single-storey mosque, though it currently doesn’t have funding. It would also need to get the city’s permission through a process separate from its current rezoning application.

On several occasions, councillors, city staff, hired planners and Muslim Association spokespeople have stressed that the current application only rezones the land for Muslims to pray in the existing house and garage.

Regardless, the potential of a mosque remains a key focus for the opposition, who did not return requests for comment.

“We have never opposed and never will oppose Muslim Association of Canada's intention to use the current house and garage at 510 Erbsville Road as a prayer centre,” said a Facebook post by Residents Opposing 510 Erbsville Rd. Rezoning. “What we are concerned (about) is the big uncertainty of Phase 2 and its impact to the community …”

On its Facebook page, the group insists it’s not opposing the prayer centre because of race or religion and will delete comments that contain “inappropriate content.”

As of this week, several questionable comments remain on the page:

“Islam is a cancer to a free and open society. Wake up;” “First it’s a mosque, then every institution will be Islamized n shariah will creep in;” and, among others, “Put it in a desert anywhere not here.”

Waterloo councillors and Mayor Dave Jaworsky have received hundreds of emails regarding this application. About half were for the rezoning, or had a positive tone, and about half were against the rezoning centre, or had a negative tone.

“I say ‘tone’ as many were not about planning issues at all,” said Mayor Dave Jaworsky, who will be chairing the public meeting.

Outside of Laurelwood, councillors have not received more feedback than usual on the prayer centre, especially when compared to other issues like leaf collection, the glowing stone trail, LRT construction or the 2016 to 2018 budget.

Council will wait to share its comments until after hearing from all delegates at the public meeting.

Coun. Diane Freeman is declaring a pecuniary interest, as the architecture firm she works for completed the conceptual plan for the site.



Waterloo council to vote on Muslim prayer centre next week

News Jun 20, 2017 by Samantha Beattie Waterloo Chronicle

Council will vote next week on the Muslim Association of Canada’s highly divisive application for a prayer centre on the north west side of the city.

It has been a year since the first public meeting was held in May 2016, in which the Muslim Association requested a zoning bylaw amendment for its property at 510 Erbsville Rd. (in the Laurelwood neighbourhood) from agricultural to institutional and green space. It is requesting to use the existing garage and house to hold daily prayer sessions for, at the most, two dozen people.

In that time, at least two different flyers protesting the prayer centre have circulated the Laurelwood neighbourhood. Opposed residents released a YouTube video, formed a Facebook group (Residents Opposing 510 Erbsville Rd. Rezoning) and created an online petition that now has 750 signatures.

This spring the Muslim Association held a public information meeting with its planners to answer questions. The opposition group held a closed meeting and only those who opposed the prayer centre were invited.

Related Content

“There's no question this issue has generated the most response in my two and a half years (as councillor),” said Laurelwood ward Coun. Brian Bourke in an email.  

On the other side, a community member created an online petition in support of the prayer centre. It has about 1,300 signatures.

“So many people are waiting anxiously to start praying at the property,” said Asif Manzoor, Muslim Association Kitchener chapter head. “We have kept our spirits high and are hoping for the best results.”

Already, more than 20 delegates have registered to speak at the public meeting.

“We can’t say with certainty that it will be completed in one meeting, although that is our target,” said Tony lavarone, director of communications for the city. “If we get through all of the delegations (registered and unregistered) council can vote on the staff recommendation that night.”

Because of the larger-than-normal crowd, the city will have extra staff and security personnel on hand to ensure the meeting is kept organized and respectful, and to help with sign in.

Residents opposed to the application say they’re worried the prayer centre will increase traffic and noise, and have a negative impact on property values and the natural environment.

To ease concerns, the Muslim Association has submitted to the city an acoustics report, geotechnical investigation, environmental impact study, survey of property, road noise impact statement and potential future conceptual site plan of the largest possible building it would consider one day building — covering about 20 per cent of the total 12,000-square metre property.

In the next decade or so, the Muslim Association envisions constructing a larger single-storey mosque, though it currently doesn’t have funding. It would also need to get the city’s permission through a process separate from its current rezoning application.

On several occasions, councillors, city staff, hired planners and Muslim Association spokespeople have stressed that the current application only rezones the land for Muslims to pray in the existing house and garage.

Regardless, the potential of a mosque remains a key focus for the opposition, who did not return requests for comment.

“We have never opposed and never will oppose Muslim Association of Canada's intention to use the current house and garage at 510 Erbsville Road as a prayer centre,” said a Facebook post by Residents Opposing 510 Erbsville Rd. Rezoning. “What we are concerned (about) is the big uncertainty of Phase 2 and its impact to the community …”

On its Facebook page, the group insists it’s not opposing the prayer centre because of race or religion and will delete comments that contain “inappropriate content.”

As of this week, several questionable comments remain on the page:

“Islam is a cancer to a free and open society. Wake up;” “First it’s a mosque, then every institution will be Islamized n shariah will creep in;” and, among others, “Put it in a desert anywhere not here.”

Waterloo councillors and Mayor Dave Jaworsky have received hundreds of emails regarding this application. About half were for the rezoning, or had a positive tone, and about half were against the rezoning centre, or had a negative tone.

“I say ‘tone’ as many were not about planning issues at all,” said Mayor Dave Jaworsky, who will be chairing the public meeting.

Outside of Laurelwood, councillors have not received more feedback than usual on the prayer centre, especially when compared to other issues like leaf collection, the glowing stone trail, LRT construction or the 2016 to 2018 budget.

Council will wait to share its comments until after hearing from all delegates at the public meeting.

Coun. Diane Freeman is declaring a pecuniary interest, as the architecture firm she works for completed the conceptual plan for the site.



Waterloo council to vote on Muslim prayer centre next week

News Jun 20, 2017 by Samantha Beattie Waterloo Chronicle

Council will vote next week on the Muslim Association of Canada’s highly divisive application for a prayer centre on the north west side of the city.

It has been a year since the first public meeting was held in May 2016, in which the Muslim Association requested a zoning bylaw amendment for its property at 510 Erbsville Rd. (in the Laurelwood neighbourhood) from agricultural to institutional and green space. It is requesting to use the existing garage and house to hold daily prayer sessions for, at the most, two dozen people.

In that time, at least two different flyers protesting the prayer centre have circulated the Laurelwood neighbourhood. Opposed residents released a YouTube video, formed a Facebook group (Residents Opposing 510 Erbsville Rd. Rezoning) and created an online petition that now has 750 signatures.

This spring the Muslim Association held a public information meeting with its planners to answer questions. The opposition group held a closed meeting and only those who opposed the prayer centre were invited.

Related Content

“There's no question this issue has generated the most response in my two and a half years (as councillor),” said Laurelwood ward Coun. Brian Bourke in an email.  

On the other side, a community member created an online petition in support of the prayer centre. It has about 1,300 signatures.

“So many people are waiting anxiously to start praying at the property,” said Asif Manzoor, Muslim Association Kitchener chapter head. “We have kept our spirits high and are hoping for the best results.”

Already, more than 20 delegates have registered to speak at the public meeting.

“We can’t say with certainty that it will be completed in one meeting, although that is our target,” said Tony lavarone, director of communications for the city. “If we get through all of the delegations (registered and unregistered) council can vote on the staff recommendation that night.”

Because of the larger-than-normal crowd, the city will have extra staff and security personnel on hand to ensure the meeting is kept organized and respectful, and to help with sign in.

Residents opposed to the application say they’re worried the prayer centre will increase traffic and noise, and have a negative impact on property values and the natural environment.

To ease concerns, the Muslim Association has submitted to the city an acoustics report, geotechnical investigation, environmental impact study, survey of property, road noise impact statement and potential future conceptual site plan of the largest possible building it would consider one day building — covering about 20 per cent of the total 12,000-square metre property.

In the next decade or so, the Muslim Association envisions constructing a larger single-storey mosque, though it currently doesn’t have funding. It would also need to get the city’s permission through a process separate from its current rezoning application.

On several occasions, councillors, city staff, hired planners and Muslim Association spokespeople have stressed that the current application only rezones the land for Muslims to pray in the existing house and garage.

Regardless, the potential of a mosque remains a key focus for the opposition, who did not return requests for comment.

“We have never opposed and never will oppose Muslim Association of Canada's intention to use the current house and garage at 510 Erbsville Road as a prayer centre,” said a Facebook post by Residents Opposing 510 Erbsville Rd. Rezoning. “What we are concerned (about) is the big uncertainty of Phase 2 and its impact to the community …”

On its Facebook page, the group insists it’s not opposing the prayer centre because of race or religion and will delete comments that contain “inappropriate content.”

As of this week, several questionable comments remain on the page:

“Islam is a cancer to a free and open society. Wake up;” “First it’s a mosque, then every institution will be Islamized n shariah will creep in;” and, among others, “Put it in a desert anywhere not here.”

Waterloo councillors and Mayor Dave Jaworsky have received hundreds of emails regarding this application. About half were for the rezoning, or had a positive tone, and about half were against the rezoning centre, or had a negative tone.

“I say ‘tone’ as many were not about planning issues at all,” said Mayor Dave Jaworsky, who will be chairing the public meeting.

Outside of Laurelwood, councillors have not received more feedback than usual on the prayer centre, especially when compared to other issues like leaf collection, the glowing stone trail, LRT construction or the 2016 to 2018 budget.

Council will wait to share its comments until after hearing from all delegates at the public meeting.

Coun. Diane Freeman is declaring a pecuniary interest, as the architecture firm she works for completed the conceptual plan for the site.