Kudos to City Councilmember Cathie Gordon for reminding the Zoning Board of Appeals to follow state guidelines when making decisions.
Gordon was behind a council resolution that made that reminder to the ZBA. Last week, the ZBA followed that recommendation when it considered a request from an Islamic center to alter the design of a building it bought at the northwest corner of Jos. Campau and Caniff.
(Interestingly, Councilmembers Abdul Algazali, Mohammed Hassan and Anam Miah voted against Gordon’s resolution. That raises a question of why they would be against the ZBA following state law.)
The ZBA members went through the state guidelines one by one and agreed that the Islamic center did not meet any of the guidelines and thus the design change was denied.
The Al-Islah Islamic Center wanted to cover up much of the building’s windows, which required a zoning variance.
The ZBA has caught flak for some controversial decisions it made that allowed two other mosques to set up in the city’s main commercial zone on Jos. Campau.
ZBA members seemed to have forgotten that commercial zones are here for a reason: To bring in businesses.
Allowing religious centers to take over key commercial buildings is bad business. There are plenty of other places in the city for these types of activities. That’s why city officials have zoned the city for specific uses.
It’s unclear if anyone can undo the decisions made by the ZBA based on whether the boardmembers followed state guidelines when they granted the variances.
We urge the city attorney to take a look into this.
In the meantime, we found it interesting that one of the ZBA members, Nasr Hussain, advocated allowing the building’s windows to be covered up in case a person who is anti-Muslim comes along and smashes the windows.
That perfectly illustrates why a religious center of any kind should not try to repurpose a commercial building in a commercial zone. It’s simply not a good fit. Religious centers have their own unique design needs.
That’s why religious centers are not permitted in commercial zones.
It’s distressing that there are some who believe there should be exceptions. Take City Councilmember Tom Jankowski, who also sits on the Plan Commission, which decided this week to rezone an industrial area to allow mixed usage, including religious centers.
Jankowski was recently quoted in the Detroit News saying that since the city’s population is now 40 percent Muslim, the city should allow these zoning changes.
For a guy who is rumored to be running for mayor this year, that’s some scary talk. Religious centers are tax-exempt and do not belong in any commercial zones.
Is this Jankowski’s vision of economic development?
Hamtramck needs every tax dollar it can scrounge up.
There are some out there who have accused those opposing these variances of being “racists” or having “Islamaphobia.”
Those are reckless and inflammatory accusations that serve only to shut down any discussion on zoning changes.
We don’t care who makes up the majority of Hamtramck’s population. Zoning laws and guidelines were made for a reason. It’s not “racist” to demand that city officials and its residents follow the rules.
There is a place for everything in this city. Allowing a religious center of any kind in a commercial district is a bad fit.