Zoning worries over Upper Darby mosque

UPPER DARBY, Pa. - December 21, 2010

Shafiq Siddiqui is part of the Keystone Islamic Center of Upper Darby who wants to convert a private home on Hazel Ave into an Islamic Center.

"The Muslim population in Upper Darby is growing," Siddiqui said.

The center would be used for prayers five times a day, as well as classes on the weekends; most of its likely members live nearby.

"Most of them live four blocks surrounding [the] place," Mohammad Rahman of the Center said.

But the plan is running into opposition.

"We want the same freedom to practice our religion like everyone else has," Siddiqui said.

Opponents say a mosque is not a good fit because of zoning. It does not allow for a house of worship on this part of narrow residential Hazel Avenue, though there are churches a few blocks away on busier roads.

"On a main thoroughfare, where it's more commercial, and you could surely get a spot, there are places for sale," Upper Darby resident Joe D'Angelo said.

Resident Frank Costa's worry is parking on and off street. To get a zoning variance the mosque has promised to build at least 14 off street parking spots, regulations call for 23. But Costa is turned off by front yard parking, normally not allowed in a residential area.

"I don't think they should get the variance to park up on the lawn and things of that nature, because I think it will bring the neighborhood down," Costa said.

Robert Datner, the attorney for the mosque, believes the parking issue can be ironed out saying most members won't drive.

"These are people who would come to the mosque from their homes, largely by walking to the mosque," Datner said.

A zoning hearing is scheduled for January.

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