LILBURN -- After a long, often times ugly fight to get its expansion plans approved, Lilburn's Dar-E-Abbas mosque may now have an even longer wait ahead of it.
Following a series of rejections by the city of Lilburn and an investigation launched by the United States Department of Justice, the Shia Muslim group ultimately had plans for new facilities near the intersection of U.S. Highway 29 and Hood Road approved in August.
A mosque official said this week, however, that it would likely be "a few years" before the project is actually begun, much less completed.
"It's going to take some time," Wasi Zaidi, one of the mosque's founding members, said. "With the economy it's very hard. There isn't any money at this point."
The Dar-E-Abbas congregation had made its home near the intersection of U.S. Highway 29 and Hood Road for more than 10 years when it applied in 2009 to purchase four additional acres of land, which would be used for a new, larger mosque, a cemetery, a gymnasium and more parking.
Many nearby residents protested the mosque's desire to expand, and the proposal was ultimately shot down by the Lilburn City Council in November of that year.
A new plan minus the cemetery and gymnasium was later proposed. That was denied in December 2010.
Lilburn's city council finally approved a third proposal in August -- just a week before the Department of Justice filed its complaint alleging religious discrimination on behalf of city officials.
All that now in the past, the battle for Dar-E-Abbas is now fundraising, Zaidi said.
"It's a big project and we want to make it right," he said.
The mosque is now in the process of getting a loan to officially purchase the land it will build on. That loan will be paid off before the new buildings are paid for and construction begins. Zaidi wasn't sure exactly how much the complete project would cost but said "it will be millions."
The project will rely solely on donations from its 150 or so regular worshippers. Given the current economy, that money is hard to come by.
"We have a lot of kids that are in high school now," Zaidi quipped. "Hopefully in a few years they'll be finished with their studies and be making a lot of money."
Dar-E-Abbas officials have pledged all along to be "good neighbors" to the surrounding community, citing 13 uneventful years of worship in Lilburn. Once the pending project is completed, they hope their new worship center will draw even more followers.
"It's going to be a very nice building," Zaidi said. "The city of Lilburn will be proud of it."