STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. – The Sterling Heights Planning Commission unanimously voted to deny building a mosque on Thursday.
The Sterling Heights City Planner recommended that the council deny a special land agreement to build the mosque in a residential area. The mosque developer said his constitutional rights are being violated, but the city said the proposed mosque is too big and doesn't meet code.
Planning Commissioner Jeffrey Norgrove said the proposed mosque is "excessive, not compatible" and that it "violates ordinances."
Members of the public cheered loudly when the 9-0 vote was announced Thursday evening. More than 200 residents protested the planned mosque last Saturday.
Sterling Heights released the following statement about the vote:
"Sterling Heights is a community that has and continues to welcome diversity through many programs and events. For many years, our city has been known in Metro Detroit as a premier community—in large part because of its diverse population representing a wide variety of cultures, ethnicities and race. One of Sterling Heights' most well-attended annual events is the ever-popular Cultural Exchange, wherein thousands of residents gather to celebrate and share their heritage with one another through food, dancing, art displays and other activities.
The recent application for the special approval land use to construct a mosque was considered by the City's Planning Commission based on objective land use criteria and not emotional feelings tied to religious beliefs either for or against the applicant. Sterling Heights has a solid reputation for inclusiveness and tolerance reflected in a wide variety of places of worship across the City, including a Sikh Temple, a Buddhist Temple and two existing Mosques.
Sterling Heights will continue to foster faith-based inclusiveness and understanding with local partners including our city's school districts, religious organizations and other community groups. We will also continue to work with with Welcoming Michigan, an organization representing new refugees and immigrants who have chosen Sterling Heights as their new home.
As stated in the City's 2030 Vision Statement; Sterling Heights is a vibrant, inclusive community for residents and businesses that is safe, active, progressive and distinctive. Inclusiveness will continue to be a guiding principle in all that we do."
The crowd lined along 15 Mile Road near Mound Road at the site of the proposed mosque.
The protesters spoke out against building the mosque in the Hatherly subdivision. Many who live around the area were overwhelmingly opposed to it.
The area is zoned residential. The planning commission would have had to grant a special land use agreement for construction to begin.
"Let's let the process play out," said Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor. "The planning commission has a very difficult decision to make, but they'll make it. And I'm confident that they'll do what's in the interest of the city."
Police were on the scene and the protests remained peaceful.