Tavares, FL - March 26, 2012
Update: On Tuesday, March 27, the Lake County Board denied the re-zoning request described below, basically for the types of reasons I mentioned. vj
Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 27, a group called the Clermont Islamic Center (CIC) is trying to get a 4+ acre section of land near Clermont re-zoned by the Lake County Commissioners from Agriculture to Community Development so they can build a 2500 sq. foot , 45 foot high Muslim Mosque with 199 parking spaces. It would be in an agriculture area with single family homes and lack of adequate roads to handle the expected traffic of 2,000 vehicle arrival & departures per day. It would be the highest building in the entire area except for the Citrus Tower.
Both the City of Clermont Council, and the Lake County Zoning Commission have voted against the re-zoning. However, the Lake County "planning & growth" staff DID recommend the re-zoning, but their reasons are vague, based upon the new County Comprehensive Plan (which makes it suspect right there) AND the possibility they screwed up and did not calculate the true traffic impact the mosque would have on the area. The Lake County Planning staff seems to be totally out of touch with reality on this decision, and we question why all their reasons sent to us in an email were based upon the planning code or comp plan, and not the affect on traffic or the neighbors.
Look at this google maps picture of the area, and you see similar 4+ acres lots all around it with single family homes. The Islamic Center is the lot with the "A" symbol. This land is not in the City of Clermont boundaries, but apparently in a County area that is a "joint use" area where both Clermont and the County have jurisdiction. The horizontal road fronting the Islamic lot is Lost Lake Rd, and the vertical road nearby is Hancock Rd. Both are currently over standards for traffic loads.
This is not an issue of religious discrimination but an issue of improper land use unfair to the existing neighbors.
I previously sent out an email with background facts and attachments regarding the issue to those on the FiscalRangers email list.
If you are not familiar with the issue, read or watch these video reports:
http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/news/lake_news/031412-Clermont-rejects-mosque-proposal <<<< This video report also includes a scene where a Sheriff’s deputy was serving them for an overdue $200,000 debt.
Our opinion is that this is an improper land use change unfair to local property owners and the the taxpayers, since it would create a huge increased traffic burden that would have to be mitigated with new roads. I am told the current roads (Lost Lake Road and Hancock Rd) already exceed capacity and there are no capital funds to expand them for at least five years because the area roads were based on agricultural, low traffic load, not high traffic purposes like mosques or businesses.
In my opinion the Islamic Center group purposely selected a low cost area rather than find and buy property properly zoned for Community Groups like Churches. They knowingly bought a property surrounded by agriculture operations with single family homes, and started having events where up to 140 cars have been parked on their lot and adjoining road, purposely ignoring the land use restrictions on the area. The group says the project is not a mosque, but their building plans specify that a worship area will have 200 seats. The group also wants outdoor speakers which would disrupt the neighbors. Most of the lot would be covered by the 25,000 square foot building and 199 paved parking spaces.
Here is a diagram of the lot plan. How do you think that looks in the existing neighborhood?
I have received emails from the County staff citing their reasons to support the re-zoning, and detailed notes of local Clermont area citizens angry over the dis-regard for the current agricultural land use environment and dis-regard by staff over the extreme changes in traffic that will occur if the re-zoning is approved.
Reasons to Deny the Re-Zoning
- Just looking at the satellite picture of the adjoining properties indicates that a mosque with high vehicle traffic is out of character with them.
- Staff claims that such re-zoning is allowable per the Comp Plan indicates there must be a real problem with the Comp Plan to even allow such extreme changes in land use. Several of their reasons specify that unspecified conditions should be met first. Why not clearly say what the conditions are and requre they be met BEFORE any consideration of re-zoning?
- The narrow road used to gain access to the lot cannot handle the projected traffic of 2,000 trips per day, nor overflow parking. No re-zoning should be considered at all without the roads being updated to handle the traffic. A main reason for land use planning is to concentrate different land uses in the same areas, thus you don't have to provide infrastructure like roads, sewers, etc . The attempt to re-zone to allow a high traffic operation ruins the concept of clustering like land uses together, and the taxpayer has to pay for it.
- Allowing a mosque (or McDonalds, or a Target store with high traffic and noise) in the area completely disrupts the property values of existing landowners and is a taking of property values. Neighboring homeowners should have the right to sue the County for loss of property value.
- Noise and excess traffic were the reasons why the Lake County Board rejected a proposed concert in December, and that was for a single event. The effects of this requested re-zoning are much longer and the re-zoning should be rejected for the same reasons.
- Approving the re-zoning would be a strong negative signal to Lake County property owners about the safety of buying land in Lake County, when the Board or staff could re-zone a neighbor to some non- reasonable type of land use. That is what they have in some parts of Texas - you have a mortuary next to restaurants and porn houses, and a rendering plant on the other side of a wall of a housing tract. The value and use of existing landowners should be protected at all costs, or the County needs to step up and pay market price for properties around a new land use area before rezoning it.
All the above are reasonable, and legitimate reasons to deny the re-zoning in agreement with the Clermont City Council and the Lake County Zoning Commission.
If the organizers of the Islamic Center want to show they truly respect the laws of the US, and relations with neighbors, they need to find land properly zoned and sized for their mosque with adequate infrastructure.
You can watch the meeting online, starting tomorrow, Tuesday, at 9am HERE. Click the "Live Board Meetings" link, and you can read or download both the main agenda and the zoning agendas from the same page. The re-zoning issue is tab 8 of the Zoning Agenda, so it could be 3+ hours before they reach it. OR, sometimes the Chair moves high interest items earlier in the meeting, so it could be anytime. Meetings usually run 4+ hours until done with no lunch.