The Islamic Humanitarian Service (IHS) did not get their way in a request to have their industrial property in the Huron Business Park re-zoned a worship property.

Kitchener Council voted 9-2 in favour of a staff suggestion to refuse the zone change that would allow 100% the property located at 60 Washburn to be used for worship, and to be exempt from property tax. The industrial zoning allows for 25% of the property to be used for worship.

Councillors received two delegations on the night, one for re-zoning and one against.

Shafiq Hudda, Imam of the IHS, a mosque with about 130 active members, spoke for his organizations re-zoning application. If a zone change was successful, Hudda said a new building would constructed on the site, “It would be three levels of 3,000 square feet each, for a total of 9,000 square feet,” he said. “One-third of the building will be used for worship. As well, there would be administrative offices, a weekend school, book store, and a Shia Muslim library.”

“Our current location (81 Hollinger Cres., Kitchener) is 4,000 square feet,” Hudda said, noting that it their congregation has outgrown the location, hence the need to expand.

Second delegation was from a planner representing Mitchell Plastics, located at 100 Washburn, Neil Palmer of ARG Group, “I do wish this group luck in finding the right location for their facility, this is not the right location,” Palmer said.

“We have a number of concerns with potential conflicts that could come up,” Palmer said, “Whether it be noise, or odours, or emissions, that come from our facility that are normal in an industrial area, and are in compliance with Ontario regulations, but they may cause concerns to children and the people using this facility.”

Palmer said there are about 500 employees at this location of Mitchell Plastics, working three shifts, sometimes 7 days a week.

“This facility should be in a residential area, or a commercial area, not in an industrial area,” said Palmer.

The concern coming from Councillors who refused the zone change is that employment lands must be preserved. Also allowing a zone change could set precedence, not only for faith-based organizations, but for any type of land user, to buy industrial lands and re-zone them for whatever purpose they desire. Additionally, Councillors expressed concerns over the potential for conflicting land use.

After the zone change application was refused, Councillor Berry Vrbanovic introduced a motion to direct staff to work with the IHS in finding a suitable location for a new facility. It passed unanimously.

Hudda says the IHS is now, “back at the drawing board,” and will take the city up on the offer to help them find a new location, once that offer is made. “Another option is to stick with the 25% (worship space use restriction) while it is still available to us.”

There is also an appeal process the IHS could take with the Ontario Municipal Board, “that is an option … I will have to sit down with our executive to see what the next step is,” Hudda said. “Council has made its decision, and chances are we’ll be abiding by it.”

Mike.McCulloch@rci.rogers.com