Land Swap Ends Mosque Flap

November 2, 2008

Author: Luz Lazo

Source: The Richmond Times-Dispatch

City officials have agreed to swap several properties to end a conflict over the construction of a mosque in one of the city's historic districts.

The deal, approved by the City Council on Tuesday, will allow the Petersburg Islamic Center to move out of its 25-year home to a location about a mile away, ending a touchy situation with residents in a rapidly changing neighborhood.

The Islamic Center, at 503 W. Washington St. across from the Appomattox Regional Governor's School in the heart of the Folly Castle Historic District, earlier this year faced opposition to a plan for rebuilding its mosque, which was destroyed by a 2006 fire caused by faulty wiring.

The city's Architectural Review Board had approved the plan, which allowed the Islamic Center to put two trailers on its property during construction of the permanent structure. But in April, the Historic Petersburg Foundation challenged the decision, prompting the City Council to reverse the review board's vote.

In April, residents said they did not oppose the religious group, but argued that trailers in the lot near newly renovated homes would look bad.

Mosque leader Atiyyah Mohammed said he had heard that with all the revitalization going on, some residents did not think the Islamic Center fit well in the area anymore.