White City, FL
It took the Muslim Friends of Florida almost a decade before they could celebrate Ramadan in their own Islamic center. Their first attempt to build a mosque on a 3-acre lot in White City encountered substantial community opposition when MFF submitted its proposal to St. Lucie County in 2008. Eventually, a compromise was found that allowed MFF to receive the necessary permits from the county, but the project never moved to construction because of financial difficulties. It would take another five years before MFF, now operating as the Islamic Association of Treasure Coast, established the Islamic Center of Treasure Coast at its current location in Fort Pierce.
In 2008, the MFF made plans for a purpose-built mosque in a rural area of White City. The group had been in the Treasure Coast region since the early 1970s where its members had participated in prayer services at other area mosques. The plan for their own mosque took concrete form in November 2008 when the group submitted a proposal for an 18,000-square-foot facility replete with Islamicate architectural elements including a dome and spire. In addition to a prayer hall for an estimated average of 50 worshippers during Friday prayers, the building also included space for social and educational events (Pfahler, 2008, December 4). A rezoning application was required because only one of the two parcels on which the structure was to be built had been zoned for a house of worship. The other was zoned for residential development.
Public opposition was first formed at a Planning Commission meeting in November and a public information session MFF held to discuss the project with the community. It reached a peak at the subsequent County Commission meeting on December 4. More than 100 residents were in attendance. Most of those speaking out against the mosque during the three-hour public comment section cited concerns about the proposed project’s size, drainage issues, and negative effects on property values. A property appraiser who spoke on behalf of opposing residents reinforced the concern over property values by comparing the project to the construction of a Home Depot in a residential zone (Westbury, 2008, December 4). The project had come before the County Commission with a 7-2 recommendation for approval from the Planning Commission, which in turn had followed staff recommendation for approval. The County Commission, however, tabled the vote on the project with the understanding that MFF would bring back a scaled-down site plan for approval at the next regularly scheduled meeting in February. "We have micromanaged this particular property beyond anything I've ever seen,” remarked one of the Commissioners at the end of the initial re-zoning hearing (Pfahler, 2008, December 4).
The County Commission eventually approved MFF’s smaller site plan for a 14,400-square feet facility at its February meeting over strong opposition from local residents. Despite the eventual approval., the project never came to fruition for financial reasons. To accommodate their members’ persistent need for worship space, MFF first rented a storefront in Fort Pierce for several years before finally acquiring a former church building for its Islamic center. In June 2015, just in time for Ramadan celebrations, the new Islamic Center of Treasure Coast opened.
- Pfahler, Eric. (2008, Dec 04). St. Lucie to revisit proposal to build White City mosque. TCPalm. Retrieved from www.tcpalm.com.
- Westbury, Anthony.(2008, Dec 4). Mosque debate shines dim light on community. TCPalm. Retrieved from www.tcpalm.com.