Talent OKs constructing new mosque

TALENT — A Rogue Valley Muslim organization has purchased a lot and gained approval to build a mosque in town.

"We will collect all the money first and then do the construction," said Magdy Zacky, director and president of Masjid Al Tawheed. "It depends on the donations. That's how fast we can expand."

The congregation holds services in leased space at 730 N. Main St., Phoenix, where Muslims have gathered since 2007. But owners of that location have chosen to demolish the building and redevelop the site when work begins to improve Fern Valley Road as part of the Exit 24 rebuilding project slated to start in 2013.

The Talent Planning Commission gave approval for a 2,100-square-foot building on a .35-acre lot in the 400 block of Highway 99, just south of Jim's Better Buys car dealership. Houses of worship are allowed under the area's zoning.

"We are just looking for the surveyors and all of that, and some money," said Zacky. "(The lot) was the right price and close by from Phoenix. Most of the people are from Medford and Ashland and between both."

The center holds only a Friday prayer service between 1 and 2 p.m. Both men and women attend, although the prayer service is not required for women, Zacky said. Between 10 and 20 people attend the services, he said.

As the only prayer center in a 150-mile radius, it draws Muslims from Roseburg to Yreka and the coast to Klamath Falls. Islamic students from Southern Oregon University also attend the services.

"Nobody comes from far distances," said Zacky. "If someone is traveling, they stop by."

Zacky sometimes serves as imam (prayer leader) for the services. It's a duty shared by those in the congregation, he said.

While the lot fronts Highway 99, vehicle access will be from Everett Street to the east under city policies and Oregon Department of Transportation requirements.

One resident of Everett Street requested denial of the application, claiming there would not be enough parking and that the mosque would generate non-resident traffic.

City staff projected a maximum attendance of 56 for special observances, resulting in a need for 11 paved parking spots. In addition, plans submitted by the organization propose an additional 10 spaces on a grass-paved, pervious surface.

While the city and ODOT consider a comprehensive plan to rework Highway 99, the center will defer sidewalk improvements, bond for future work and be required to provide a 6-foot-wide granitic walking path along the frontage.

Besides a prayer hall, the facility will include an office, kitchen and multi-purpose room. Other uses listed for the facility include weekly study circles, monthly potlucks and two holiday events per year. The mosque will be situated to allow for future expansion.

A website at www.salatomatic.com/d/Phoenix+17430+Masjid-Al-Tawheed lists a contact phone number of 541-646-8233.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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