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Planning Board Approves Islamic Society Center Expansion

The approval is contingent upon satisfying several conditions.

The Islamic Society of Monmouth County received approval from the Middletown Planning Board Wednesday to expand their parking lot and community center on its Red Hill Road property.

The Board unanimously approved the decision contingent upon satisfying site improvements, which includes adding a six-foot stockade fence between the mosque’s property and the Middletown neighbor’s property, consulting a township landscaper for buffer and fence placement, and making sure there is sufficient signage to prohibit parking in the pedestrian walk areas.

In addition, the Planning Board and applicant will seek county approvals to add landscaping in the right-of-way zone to create a buffer between the center and a Holmdel neighbor on Red Hill Road. The landscaping was initially approved in 1999.

These conditions will be formally written into a resolution and will be presented at the next Planning Board meeting.

The proposal to expand the parking lot expansion and community center has seen multiple revisions since it was last presented to the Board.

“We went back to the drawing board,” said site engineer Scharif Aly, addressing concerns suggested by the Planning Board.

In past meetings, a problem arose with an ordinance that requires 20 feet between the spaces and the right-of-way in the parking area.

“Our initial plan had 15 to 18 feet,” Aly said. “In the new plans, we pushed back the parking lot so now there will 30 feet between the spaces and the right-of-way.”

The Center also eliminated 90-degree parking facing the center’s neighbors on Red Hill Road in Holmdel, he said. 

“We will have seven spaces in the area of Red Hill Road with parallel parking instead of 14 spaces,” Aly said, adding that the center would lose one proposed space because of the redesign.

But although the spaces that would directly face one of the center’s Red Hill Road neighbors were removed, 15 spaces have been placed facing the mosque’s only Middletown neighbor, Michael Beham.

“Despite what Mr. Aly said there has been no agreement to assist at all what is going on in my side,” Beham said.

Beham said with those additional spots, headlights would be facing directly onto his property and suggested putting up a six-foot stockade fence at the outside of the buffer line.

“We will put a six-foot stockade fence on the property,” Aly said, but suggested the proper place for the fence on the southern property line to ensure that the growth of vegetation buffer would not to be hindered by the fence.

When the vegetation reaches a height of 10 feet the fence can be removed, according to a town ordinance.

The new site plans also include added sidewalks from the main parking area to the entrance of the mosque.

More than 30 attendees, many dressed in Islamic traditional garb, applauded the Board at the end of the nearly hour long hearing.

In contract, the mosque’s neighbors left the meeting room, clearly discontent with the board’s decision.

Beham said he was concerned the Board’s decision would lead to depreciatation of his property value.

“I’m the center’s only Middletown neighbor, you would think they would try and work with me,” he said. 

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