Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ismaili worship center application withdrawn; will look for new site

The Ismaili Muslim congregation which had asked for a conditional use for a worship center at the corner of Sulphur Springs Rd. and Al Seier Rd. withdrew their application just hours before the Hoover City Council work session Thursday.

Louis Passarella Jr., the developer who was handling the project, emailed a letter to the city around 2 p.m.

In a telephone interview Thursday night, Passarella said the original purchase contract was due to expire on Friday, Sept. 14, and the seller was unwilling to extend the contract.

"Most sale contracts have a time limit. Ours was 120 days. We had two significant delays in the process. Our first hearing was deferred because of a claim that people were not properly notified.

"The second time, our application was pulled from the agenda without our consent because someone thought the zoning ordinance did not permit this use. They finally admitted that the ordinance had been changed and it was allowed, but the delay put us at a real time disadvantage."

Those delays also "allowed the fervor to build" opposing the Ismaili congregation, he said.

Without some reasonable expectation of getting the conditional use approved, the congregation felt it could not go forward with the project. "We have regrouped and we are continuing to look for a location," Passarella said. "These folks want to worship in Hoover, where they live and are raising their families." He said the Ismaili congregation would stay at their current location in Riverchase until a building site is found.

(Editor's note: The publicly stated reasons for opposing this project were traffic and that the use did not generate tax revenue. But off the record, nearly all the opposition was anti-Muslim sentiment. Several neighborhood residents told me that those circulating petitions and asking for people to attend hearings stated that they were opposed to Muslims.)