In September of 2009, the Islamic Foundation of Greater Milwaukee purchased a lot on Pheasant Drive in Brookfield. In October of 2010, the Foundation purchased an adjoining lot. Pheasant Drive intersects Calhoun Road on its western end and dead ends several blocks to the east. The land is zoned “industrial.”
Last fall, representatives of the Foundation met with me and other City officials to discuss the possibility of building a mosque on these two lots. Buildings for religious use are conditional uses that may be permitted in any zoning district. In discussing the Foundation’s ideas, we pointed out the challenge of the intersection of Pheasant Drive with Calhoun Road, which is complicated by railroad tracks to the north and south of the intersection.
After a traffic study, and further conversations with us, the representatives of the Foundation agreed to meet the traffic intersection concern by reducing the size of the contemplated building by almost half. As currently proposed, the mosque will have 114 prayer spaces. Further, the principal service will be early Friday afternoon which is not a heavy drive time on Calhoun Road.
In evaluating the proposed mosque, it is important to note that we are reviewing a building; we are not reviewing a religion. In reviewing the proposed building, our consideration is limited to matters such as site plans, building plans that illustrate the building appearance, building materials, parking locations, landscape plans, plans of operation, storm water issues and traffic concerns.
The United States Constitution assures freedom of religion in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Subsequent legislation, including the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) enacted in 2000, assures the rights of religious institutions to use their property to fulfill their missions. Government has no business reviewing religious beliefs in connection with a proposed religious building.
Brookfield is a highly educated, sophisticated community which understands these matters. We currently have a wide variety of churches and temples in Brookfield representing most major religions including: Assemblies of God; Baptist; Catholic; Christian Science; Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon); Episcopal; Lutheran; Methodist; Non-Denominational; Presbyterian; Sikh; Unitarian Universalist; and United Church of Christ. These religious institutions enrich the spiritual life of our residents and offer many valuable services to our community. I am also pleased that the Brookfield - Elm Grove Interfaith Network (BEGIN) has been working since 2001 to promote greater knowledge, understanding and cooperation among religions.
The City’s process of reviewing the proposed mosque has been and will continue to be a very open one. All the relevant information about the proposed mosque is readily available on the City’s website ( www.ci.brookfield.wi.us ). There will be a public information meeting about the proposed mosque, facilitated by City staff, on May 2 in the Municipal Courtroom of the Public Safety Building, 2100 N. Calhoun Rd., beginning at 5 p.m. and concluding at 8 p.m. The meeting will be conducted in an open house format with plans on display and representatives able to address technical data and reports. No presentation will be made at this meeting, nor will any action be taken.
A public hearing on this matter before the Plan Commission is scheduled for May 7 in the Common Council Chamber at City Hall beginning at 6 p.m. The hearing will begin with a presentation followed by an opportunity for public comment. Upon the conclusion of the public hearing, the Plan Commission will deliberate the request. If the Plan Commission recommends approval, this matter will be considered by the Common Council on May 15.
If you have questions about the proposed mosque, I encourage you to visit the City website and/or attend the informational meeting and the public hearing.
- Editor's Note: For more information on the mosque, see Patch's previous stories.