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Mosque hearing delayed

LILBURN -- Thursday night, Lilburn City Hall was abuzz with people on both sides of the proposed rezoning that would allow an elaborate mosque to be built near U.S. Highway 29 and Hood Road.

Because this Planning and Zoning Commission hearing will apparently require a bigger venue, it was postponed.

But Lilburn residents, clearly emotional, managed to hold several mini-debates -- often in loud tones -- before finally dispersing.

"That's not fair!" was the chant from Muslims when the hearing was canceled.

"You are wasting our time!" one man shouted.

"We want the meeting now," yelled another.

Every chair inside the small Calvin Fitchett Municipal Complex room was taken. People lined the walls, spilled into the lobby and parking lot. About half were in favor of the 10,000-square-foot mosque, half strongly opposed.

Those hoping for the rezoning say the expansion -- which would include a 1-acre cemetery and athletic facilities -- said it is necessary for a growing Muslim population.

The sentiment among opposition seems to be that they're not against a new mosque being built, but being built in their backyards. It would, they say, destroy the small-town atmosphere and establish a dangerous precedent.

Angel Alonso said Mayor Diana Preston, who has agreed to sell her property to Dar-E Abbas should the rezoning be approved, is "selling out the community."

"I don't have a problem with anybody ... this is not about race or religion," Alonso said. "This is about keeping residential residential, and commercial commercial."

Addressing the issue earlier this month, Preston said she would not vote or participate in the rezoning debate.

The issue was scheduled to be voted on during the city council meeting on Nov. 9. It is unclear now, however, when the commission will reschedule the hearing.