Tuesday evening, after five hours of testimony from hundreds of residents, the Carmel, Indiana Board of Zoning and Appeals voted to approve the permit for the Islamic Life Center (ILC), a house of worship and civic community space that is being sponsored by the Al Salam Foundation. The Al Salam Foundation is represented by Muslim Advocates. The following is a statement from the Al Salam Foundation regarding the vote:
“The ILC applauds this fair decision on the merits. This is an example of the power of democratic process of this country: its ability to have hard conversations, to stay together, and to foster fairness and dignity for all residents. We thank the people of Carmel for their broad support at every step of the process, and we look forward to having our own house of worship at last. Our doors remain open to any valid concerns and we will continue to be good neighbors.”
Municipal zoning officials decided to allow the Islamic Life Center (ILC), a house of worship and civic community space that is being sponsored by the Al Salam Foundation (an organization comprised of the town’s Muslim community members), to be built in Carmel, Indiana. Although support for the mosque was both broad and deep in the community and the ILC’s permit application complies with all applicable rules and regulations, a vocal minority of residents are opposing the mosque.
The zoning law states that houses of worship are compatible with neighborhoods and should generally be approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals. City staff recommended the project be OKd, saying the mosque meets all zoning requirements. They also said the 15-acre corner lot can comfortably accommodate the church and parking lot; 141st Street and Shelborne Road can handle the increased traffic during prayers; police and fire protection is available; and the mosque will not harm area property values.
Unlike the City Council, the Board of Zoning Appeals is a quasi-judicial board. Decisions are guided by state law on specific criteria, not political will or opinion. Since the decisions are based on facts, the zoning board’s decisions can be appealed to county courts. Board members are appointed by the mayor, council and Plan Commission.
In practice, city officials say similar-sized churches routinely have been approved in residential areas. The planning department compiled a list of 17 houses of worship that have received permission to build alongside neighborhoods…
The hearing and vote, which took place at the Palladium Performing Arts Center, before the Carmel Board of Zoning and Appeals (BZA) was a continuation of the BZA’s January hearing; the BZA extended that hearing due to an unprecedented turnout. At the Monday’s hearing, the BZA iconcluded the hearing and voted on whether to approve or deny the permit for the ILC. Any further vote to delay or deny this permit will come at a substantial cost to Carmel broadly, and particularly to its Muslim community.