AZ: FINANCES SET BACK MOSQUE COMPLETION
Construction on Chandler's first mosque has been languishing for years, and some neighbors say they're tired of the dust, debris and the skeleton of a building.
When models of the Islamic Center of the East Valley showing a tower, a dome and gardens were made public in 2002, planners said they expected it to be finished within a year. But a financial crunch is causing the delays and post-9/11 fundraising has been more difficult than expected, said Arif Kazmi, former chairman of the Chandler Human Relations Commission and project director.
"There is a fear in some people that the mosque may take money and send it out of the country, to the Middle East or Africa," Kazmi said.
Because the Islamic faith dictates they cannot borrow money for construction, work on the building is done only when donated funds are available, he said. Extra care is being taken to show contributors that money is going only to construction, he said.
City Planning Director Doug Ballard said the project has met all city building permit requirements.
"It's unusual for construction to go on so long, but we're trying to work with them because they're not the only religious organization that ends up with financial difficulties," he said.
In response to neighbors' concerns, the City Council voted in 1996 to approve a use permit for the future mosque on the condition that it not have access to Pleasant Drive, a residential street east of the site.
Kazmi said because of that restriction, his group had to secure access to Alma School Road and sold two lots it owned on Pleasant Drive.
Barbara Knox, a Chandler resident since 1948, said she was among the neighbors who raised concerns during the mosque's zoning permit hearings more than a decade ago.