KENNESAW, Ga. (WXIA) — Wednesday night, in a stunning reversal, the Kennesaw City Council said they plan to approve the new mosque that they rejected last week.
All five council members met in private for more than two and a half hours Wednesday at Kennesaw City Hall. They met in private with the mayor and with the city attorney.
Just after 9 p.m., they reconvened in public, and Mayor Mark Mathews announced that the council members who had voted against the mosque last week wanted to change their votes and vote for the mosque, at their next meeting, on Monday. That vote would allow Kennesaw Muslims to rent a storefront in a small shopping center just off of Highway 41 for their worship center.
Council members did not say why they were changing their votes to Yes. But they knew that the city was facing a certain, and expensive, lawsuit by the Muslims claiming that the city was violating their Constitutional rights. And the Mayor read a statement (see below) indicating that the mosque application fits with the city’s Vision and Mission.
So now the Muslims will not sue the city, and they will get their worship center.
“It’s been a very sensitive issue for everyone,” Mathews said. “Obviously, we all believe that Kennesaw’s a fantastic place to live, to work, to play, to worship, and we want to try to make sure than everybody is accommodated as best as possible.”
“It is exciting news,” said Amjad Taufique of the Suffat Dawat Center. “On a personal level, I really think that’s a very good thing that just happened, if the Council is going to go back on the decision and approve this thing. And this will give us an opportunity to invite our neighbors more, and understand us better, and be able to work together for the better community that we all live in.”
“I’m very disappointed,” said Kennesaw resident Carol Robertson. Robertson is against the mosque, but she criticized anti-Muslim picketers who demonstrated outside City Hall last week; they said they were afraid of Muslims using the mosque as a base for committing violent acts of terrorism against Kennesaw residents. Robertson said those protestors do not represent most Kennesaw residents.
She opposes the mosque because she believes it would make traffic and parking at and around that location – the small strip mall at 2750 Jiles Road – worse. “It’s not about faith. This is definitely a zoning issue. This is not the right thing for any faith, whether it’s Methodist, Jewish, Catholic or Muslim. Wrong location,” Robertson said.
The formal vote will take place at the regular council meeting this coming Monday evening, and unless any of the council members change their minds again, it will be a unanimous vote for the mosque.
Council members who voted No last week and told the Mayor they want to change their vote to Yes:
Council member Cris Eaton-Welsh voted Yes last week and does not want to change her vote.
Council members expressed support for giving the mosque 24 months at that location, with no other restrictions or stipulations.
Here is the full statement read by Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews Wednesday night, explaining the council’s reversal:
A few weeks ago, this council adopted unanimously a new Vision Statement, a new Mission Statement and a new set of Goals intended to be the framework for the next 5 years and beyond.
Kennesaw – The center of opportunity in the Atlanta Region where the sense of community allows families and businesses to thrive.
The City of Kennesaw, in partnership and communication with residents, businesses, and schools is dedicated to
-Providing a safe, healthy, welcoming atmosphere where people choose to live
-Promoting economic vitality and strategically positioning Kennesaw for the future
-Supporting planned growth and influencing decisions that impact the city
-Building an inclusive city with opportunities for all
-Meeting service demands through high quality customer service, innovation, a positive work environment, and a commitment to excellence
As a result of this mission and after further review, consideration and legal review, council members Church, Killingsworth, Sebastian and Williams have independently approached me in my office during a recess following tonight’s Executive Session and requested to change their vote cast in the meeting held on December 1, 2014 on the Staff Recommendation for approval regarding the request for a Land Use Permit for 2750 Jiles Rd. by Suffa Dawat Center Inc. at Kennesaw for the purpose of opening a worship center. Per staff’s recommendation for approval for a 24 month period and no other stipulations.
The request to change their vote will be placed on the agenda for consideration on Monday evening December 15 at 6:30 pm in this council chambers.