Carmel residents overflow BZA meeting to voice concerns with Islamic Center proposal


By Desiree Williams

Carmel residents arrived in masses at the Monon Community Center Jan. 22 for a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting to voice concerns about a proposed Islamic Life Center on five acres at 14120 Shelborne Road.

During a public hearing, more than 30 residents spoke to the board about their opposition of the mosque, which would need special use approval to be constructed in a residential zone. Speakers said that their only point of contention is the location of the mosque, not the mosque itself.

The meeting room hit its capacity at 300, forcing some attendees to wait outside without the chance to speak. In lieu of making a decision, the board ordered a continuance of the public hearing to allow those who weren’t able to get in a chance to speak. The public hearing will continue at 6 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Monon Community Center (location subject to change).

Most neighbors who spoke live in Overbrook Farms and Long Ridge Estates. They cited concerns about traffic congestion, pedestrian safety, excess noise and bright lights and project size. One resident said it’s like forcing a basketball into a golf hole.

Many residents said they chose this area of Carmel for the peace and quiet, and they do not want that disturbed by a commercial building.

“We have many commercial places out there to build this type of facility, not next door to my house or the other people’s homes here. We spent a lot of money. My property value is in great jeopardy,” said David Bidgood, owner of the 40 acres north of the proposed site.

Carmel City Council members Ron Carter and Laura Campbell also voiced their opposition to the proposal, urging the board to disregard the religious aspect and focus solely on finding an appropriate location for the center. The proposal is not expected to come before the city council.

On behalf of Al Salam Foundation, Project Coordinator Chris McCoy and Land Use Planner Kevin Buchheit said a traffic analysis will be conducted and presented to the board and they will reach out to the school district to discuss the overlap of school bus and worship schedules. McCoy also said it is too early to be certain about noise issues, but he has possible solutions if the problem arises.

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