Lilburn City Council rejects plans for mosque

"I'm so happy I can't even talk," homeowner Lorraine Lobos said. "Our needs have been answered."

But the decision before a packed crowd of more than 400 people in Lawrenceville isn't expected to end the feud -- and its conflicting themes of faith and future land use. The matter could end up in court.

In a 4-0vote, city leaders denied a rezoning request by the local Muslim congregation of Dar-E-Abbas for a 20,000-square-foot mosque, cemetery and gymnasium on about 8 acres at U.S. 29 and Hood Road. The congregation, which has worshiped there for the past 11 years, was looking to expand to accommodate the city's growing Muslim population. One estimate puts the number of Muslims in metro Atlanta at 80,000.

The council's decision was met by applause by hundreds of residents who wore red to signal they wanted the plans stopped. They said the rezoning violated the city's land-use plan.

Supporters of the rezoning were clad in green.

Doug Dillard, the congregation's attorney, called the decision "arbitrary and capricious" and plans to file a lawsuit against the city within 30 days.

"The basis of this motion to deny had no basis in fact," Dillard said. "My recommendation is we file suit and challenge the legality of what the council did tonight."

Like the city's Planning Commission, which last week recommended rejecting the rezoning, the City Council cited several reasons in its ruling at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. City leaders said the plan would create spot zoning and have detrimental effects on stormwater, traffic and parking.

Mayor Diana Preston, who owns 4 acres of the land the congregation wants to buy, did not attend the meeting.

The vote brought Angel Alonso, a 15-year resident, to the brink of tears.

"I feel like crying," he said, "to see the residents fight for one cause ... and win."

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