03/04/07 — City council to weigh mosque petition

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City council to weigh mosque petition

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on March 4, 2007 2:01 AM

Goldsboro City Council will decide Monday night whether a mosque should be built off Wayne Memorial Drive.

Residents, led by Dr. Waheed Akhtar, lobbied City Council during a public hearing on Feb. 19 for the right to build a 2,050-square-foot mosque on the southeast corner of Best Avenue and Wayne Memorial Drive. Akhtar said the new center was needed because members of the city's Muslim community have to drive as far away as Raleigh to worship.

Many supporters of the mosque said the community's small Muslim community would not swell traffic along the already busy Wayne Memorial Drive and members deserve a suitable and safe place to worship.

But some opponents told council members that they believe a mosque would cause more traffic problems, while others simply did not want a mosque in their neighborhood.

Since a valid protest petition was filed with the city's planning department, six council members must approve the request at their Monday meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the large meeting room on the second floor of City Hall. The planning board is expected to recommend the project.

Another planning issue the council will consider Monday concerns a request by Muhammed Arif Darr for a conditional use permit to rezone property on the south side of U.S. 70 between the U.S. 117 Bypass and U.S. 117 North as a place of entertainment.

City Planner James Rowe said the property, which once served as a hotel and has been closed for more than six months, would be converted into a 2,840-square-foot nightclub. The club would have a bar, stage, lounge, dance floor and pool tables. More than 200 parking spaces would be available.

The planning board's recommendation is to approve a conditional use permit so construction can begin.

The council will also consider traffic control changes at two intersections of North John Street. John Street's intersections with Oak and Vine streets are home to stoplights that have outlived their original purpose, City Engineer Terry Gallimore said.

In the past three years, there have been no accidents at either intersection, which prompted City Manager Joe Huffman to ask the engineering department if the stoplights could be removed at those two locations.

Huffman said the project would not only save the city money on maintenance costs, but it would provide more convenience for residents traveling downtown.

"We're doing all of this work downtown. We should try to make it more convenient to get there," he said.

In accordance with city protocol, if the council approves the removal of the stoplights, the city will implement a flash signal at the intersections for 90 days to notify residents of the impending change. If there are no problems during that 90-day period, the city will change the stoplights to stop signs.