Public hearing set for Henrico mosque proposal

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – Henrico neighbors are getting ready for what appears to be the final confrontation on a proposed Muslim mosque.

A big crowd is expected when the Henrico County Board of Supervisors votes next Tuesday on the controversial plan for the county's west end. Some neighbors are distancing themselves from fears of religious extremism. They told NBC12 about a different problem.

The wooded area in question is located in Impala Drive, near Hilliard Road, right behind Jean Johnston's house.

ANDY: "They would clear all that land that we're looking at here?"
JEAN: "Right."

Henrico County planners recommend putting a Muslim mosque there, and they got an earful last month from neighbors who fear religious extremism. But Jean says, for her, the problem is more simple than that.

JEAN: "We're concerned about the noise. There's no outlet back here."(Truck drives through)
ANDY: "Speaking of noise, it's trucks like that?"
JEAN: "Yes."

Big trucks and a lot of cars are seen on Impala Drive every day. A new mosque would attract hundreds of additional vehicles per week. We brought that concern to Ammar Amonette, Imam of the Islamic Center of Virginia.

"They would never do anything that would have a negative impact on the community. And I think they would go out of their way to be good neighbors," Amonette said, speaking of Henrico's Muslim population of approximately 4,000 people.

Amonette says the existing Islamic Center has existed peacefully in Bon Air since the 1980's. Its members anticipate a similar relationship in Henrico.

"They're their neighbors already. All they're doing is building a house of worship in their neighborhood  where they live, which is their constitutionally protected right," Amonette said.

Still - that's not stopping some neighbors from exercising their right of free speech.

"It could be a mosque, a Baptist church, a Catholic church, anything of that, that really doesn't matter to me. It's the traffic," said Leisa Reinarts.

"It would be pushing our children into an environment that we may not be comfortable with them  being pushed into," added Jennifer Bunting.

Even if the mosque is approved, it's still a long way from becoming a reality. All of the land would have to be developed. Private citizens would also have to raise all the money needed to pay for it.

A public hearing will take place at next Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting. It begins at 7:00 p.m., at the main government complex on Parham Road. The board is expected to vote on the issue after the hearing.

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