HORIZON WEST Residents of Lake Mabel and neighboring communities gathered at Sunset Park Elementary Wednesday, July 20, for the second community meeting regarding plans for the Windermere Religious Center.
A previous meeting held in March debuted the project, a mosque that would be located at 8806 Winter Garden-Vineland Road near the northeast shore of Lake Mabel, if approved.
Currently, the land is designated rural-country estate (R-CE), and the applicant — property owner Dr. Muhammad A. Awan — is requesting a special exception to be able to build the 6,900-square-foot mosque. Per Orange County Land Development Code, churches, mosques and synagogues are allowed as a special-exception use within the R-CE zoning.
“This area has an underlying zoning R-CE, which is mostly designated for accommodating residential uses,” said Orange County District 1 Commissioner S. Scott Boyd.
Although the property contains just a little more than six acres, the project only would take up one-and-one-half acres, with 1.61 acres left for undisturbed wetland and 1.79 for undisturbed upland. The rest of the area, 1.04 acres, is submerged in the lake.
Convenience was one of the main reasons project supporters vouched for their cause — the nearest mosque to the property in question is more than six miles away on Ruby Lake Road. Chris Stephens, of Barrios Engineering, which is helping with engineering and permitting for the mosque, said the majority of those who would be attending the mosque live within a two- to four-mile radius from the property. Currently, those attendees drive at least 20 minutes to get to the Ruby Lake mosque.
“Currently there is no mosque facility in the local area that services the residents of Windermere, Lake Butler, Lake Mabel, Lake Tibet and surrounding residential communities,” Stephens said.
The mosque capacity would be 120 people. With this in mind, there would be 16,218 square feet of asphalt for a parking area. As per Orange County Land Development Code, one parking space for every three fixed seats is required, as well as one space for each employee. In this case, with 120 patrons and four employees, there is a total of 44 proposed parking spaces.
Currently there are about 25,500 trips on Winter Garden-Vineland Road each day, and the new mosque would only account for about 20 trips during morning prayer and 30 during afternoon prayer.
It would be screened from Lake Mabel by about 900 linear feet of undisturbed vegetation, from the east by 170 linear feet of existing vegetation, and from the west by about 30 feet of existing wetlands, trees and new vegetation. Stephens said the applicant had worked hard to make the facility as aesthetically pleasing and screened as possible in attempt to appease nearby residents.
“The building facade has been designed to be aesthetically pleasant, without steeples and to resemble the architectural elements common to recent upscale, area residential homes,” Stephens said.
Stephens also said the mosque will have no stormwater impact to the existing wetlands or on Lake Mabel. All exterior light fixtures will be “cut-off” fixtures and light directed downward, and there will not be a “call to prayer” over intercoms or loudspeakers. Additionally, the mosque will not have a childcare facility.
Nearby residents were mainly concerned about the zoning and that the property is located in a residential area. Part of the property that Awan owns is not currently being developed, but he said he may one day build a house there. Residents were more satisfied with the idea of building the home than they were with plans for a mosque.
Other concerns include the future of adjacent land and the remaining property that Awan owns nearby, as well as whether the development would have water running on septic versus hooked up to the water main.
There is a tentative Board of Zoning Adjustment hearing date Aug. 4, and the project should go before the Orange County Board of County Commissioners by the end of August. For more, contact Hillary Hepp at (419) 934-2072.
Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].