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St Cloud Times editorial says 'set aside religious concerns' on Islamic Center proposal

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On Tuesday, the St. Cloud's Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on a request from the Islamic Center of St. Cloud for a zoning change to allow it to build a three-phased new complex in the city, according to the St Cloud Times.

The plan includes building a place of worship, religious education building, gym, community room, townhouses, retail and office space and restaurant. The center purchased the site in 2011 from the St. Cloud School District.

The paper reports that some neighbors oppose the development because they fear it would compromise the residential quality of the neighborhood and lead to higher traffic levels, while "other opponents have let city leaders know they object specifically because it’s a place of worship," the paper concludes.

An editorial in the Sunday St. Cloud Times said that those concerns should not be part of the decision-making. The editorial said that "...planning commission members, City Council members and all residents must set aside religious concerns and focus on whether this proposal — no matter the faith behind it — is allowed under St. Cloud’s Land Development Code."

The paper notes that there are 15 places of worship in single-family residential zones in the city. "Clearly, churches — even some with schools, gyms and meeting rooms — already exist in residential neighborhoods," the editors wrote.

City staff has recommended approving the proposal except for the retail, restaurant and office space. City staff wrote in its report that it needs more information about traffic projections and parking places.

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