After months of debate, the St. Anthony Village City Council has rejected plans to build an Islamic center in the basement of the old Medtronic building -- and some in the Muslim community claim the proposal was voted down due to discrimination.
Just a few days ago, the city's planning commission approved the project, but it's just an advisory board. The ultimate decision always rested with the City Council, which argued that the issue was one of land use and zoning -- not of religious intolerance.
Yet, one civil rights group told FOX 9 News they plan to contact the Department of Justice in the coming days to investigate what happened in the small suburb of Minneapolis. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said the department has already gotten involved in more than two dozen rejected mosque projects across the nation.
The chamber was packed on Tuesday night as people on both sides of the issue made their opinions known.
A local Muslim group, known as Abu Huraira, proposed buying the old Medtronics headquarters building on Old Highway 8 in February. Their dream was to turn nearly 13,000 square feet of the lower level into an Islamic center for prayer and gathering space, but the city said some confusion about zoning issues made it unclear if a place of religious assembly was allowed.
So, the city studied the issue, clarified its zoning ordinance, and then rejected the proposal outright by a vote of 4-1.
"It pains me to vote against something people are so passionate about," said Councilman Randy Stille. "It's a land use issue -- nothing more. Always has been."
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