A proposal to build an Islamic community center in Overland Park received preliminary approval Monday despite apparent opposition from hundreds of Overland Park residents.
Organizers want to build a mosque, school, day care and banquet hall totaling about 110,000 square feet on 17 acres that were previously set aside for construction of a facility by a church.
Almost 500 people signed a petition asking that the proposal be delayed or rejected. About 100 people emailed the Overland Park Planning Commission, officials said Monday at a board meeting.
The community center would be near Blue Valley Middle School and the Wilderness subdivision.
The center is a joint proposal by the Islamic Center of Kansas and the Muslim-American Society-Kansas City.
John Peterson, an attorney representing the Islamic Center of Kansas, told commissioners the project is a “textbook location for a faith-based community operation.”
A similar proposal by Cambridge Church received preliminary approval in 2007.
That project would have added buildings totaling about 82,000 square feet and would have included about 200 more parking spaces than the current proposal.
Opponents on Monday said they’re concerned about the project’s size and the impact it could have on neighborhood traffic.
Attorney Doug Patterson, speaking on behalf of the project's opponents, said the mosque is only a small part of the overall project.
“If we were talking about a true place of worship that had a related hall for food and gatherings and meetings and so forth, I don’t think we’d be here,” he said. “What we have is a facility which is, in substance… the overall Kansas City assembly of this faith into a headquarters located in this site.”
But Peterson, speaking for the project's backers, said modern religious facilities involve much more than a church.
“Having a following of those that want to be part of their faith community not only means an opportunity to worship one day a week, but it is also an opportunity to educate children, to provide child care and to provide all the elements of a good social network,” he said.
Kamran Qadir, president of the Islamic Center, told KCUR the center wants a new facility because the organization needs more space, not because of any problems at its current location in Olathe.
“We have a very good relationship with our neighbors,” he said.
The planning commission voted unanimously in favor of the project, which still needs city council approval.