DANVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — A zoning board in Hendricks County on Tuesday night recommended the rezoning of 80 acres of land for developers to build a campus for the Muslim community.
The board advanced the measure with a 4-3 vote. The board’s recommendation now goes to the Hendricks County Board of Commissioners for their final approval.
About 60 people showed up at a zoning meeting at the county fairgrounds to voice their opinions on the project. The crowd was significantly larger than normal.
The issue gained a significant amount of attention after a petition online against the project brought about hateful speech regarding the Islamic community.
The proposal calls for a former Clermont golf course near Brownsburg to be transformed into a community center that will include prayer rooms, residential units, and a private school and dormitory.
Developers say they will not build a separate mosque, and the residential area will not include apartment units.
“From what I was reading on the petition, the comments that were being left behind by the people that were signing it, it struck me that the primary reason that anybody is objecting to it going in is based on religious grounds,” said Kevin Wightman, who lives near the proposed project.
A petition opposing the project garnered more than 600 signatures and quite a few comments about why they don’t think the project is a good fit for the area.
“We did not anticipate such opposition. Some of the comments are based on some valid concerns about the traffic, about noise; others are rooted in, unfortunately, anti-Muslimism rhetoric,” said Hiba Alami, executive director of the Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network.
A small group of protesters gathered outside of the meeting with signs that read “Love your Muslim neighbor.”
Protester Nadia Lovko said, “I think if this was a Christian community trying to build itself, I don’t think we would necessarily be having the same issue of ‘Well, there aren’t enough resources.’ I don’t think that is a topic that would even be approached.”
Gary Avery says he was not at the meeting to fight an issue of religion but rather to get some answers about logistics. He had not decided where he stands on the proposal.
“I think it is important that we understand what private or public money is needed to support something like that,” Avery said.
Developers addressed concerns of environmental impact and traffic issues, and planned to fix many of those problems at their own expense.
Before public comment started Tuesday evening, one of the board members made it very clear the zoning board would only hear comments regarding zoning issues and not hear matters based on religion.