Cooksville, MD

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Description

After announcing plans in 2012 to move its Education and Community Campus from College Park to Howard County, the Dar-us-Salaam community faces organized opposition from town residents. Although a county land-use judge grants a conditional-use permit, Dar-us-Salaam appeals the decision because of the restrictive conditions attached to the approval. Following several public hearings in October 2014, the Howard County Board of Appeals tables the case after Dar-us-Salaam’s purchase contract expires.

Creator

Bryce Bentinck

Year

2013

Proposed Project

The preliminary concept for the 65-acre property includes two school buildings, an administration building, a mosque, a daycare center, and residential facilities. The proposed on-site mosque would serve 800 local families, with a maximum occupancy between 2,500 and 5,000 worshipers for the major holidays. The property is zoned rural-conservation, with conditional-use permits for educational uses.

Outcome

Dar-us-Salaam does not resume the zoning process after the Board of Appeals tables the appeal. The property of the former Woodmont Academy is purchased by St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church in 2017.

Narrative

In June 2012, Dar-us-Salaam signed a purchase agreement for the property of the former Woodmont Academy to build its Education and Community Campus in Cooksville, MD. The community entered this agreement on the condition that the zoning of the property could be changed from rural with educational conditional-use permit (CUP) to Community Center Transition zoning. Although the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning recommended the change, the comprehensive zoning request ultimately was withdrawn due to strong public opposition from local residents at an initial hearing before the Howard County Planning Board on April 8, 2013 (Ames, 2013, Jun 19 ). To secure the required zoning permits, Dar-us-Salaam decided to go through the conditional-use process--a more time-consuming and expensive alternative. On May 15, 2014, a county land-use judge approved the CUP but with extremely restrictive conditions. Dar-us-Salaam appealed the decision and submitted an updated, scaled-down proposal. The Howard County Board of Appeals eventually dismissed the appeal after Dar-us-Salaam’s purchase agreement had expired in late September 2014. 

Before any applications were submitted to the local government, the Carriage Hill HOA held a meeting to discuss Dar-us-Salaam’s plans. About 300 residents were in attendance. A majority of these residents were in strong opposition to the project, espousing the view that the proposed usage was too intensive for the area. Opponents asserted that western Howard County was protected by rural conservation and rural residential zoning, and that this project put the rural nature of the town at risk. Local residents soon after formed the nonprofit Residents for Responsible Development of Woodmont (RRDW) and hired legal counsel to assist in their opposition to Dar-us-Salaam zoning requests (Western Howard residents fighting plan for Islamic center, 2013, Apr 8). Local residents and the RRDW opposed both the rezoning and the CUP applications, stating that the project would overwhelm traffic and nearby roads and set the wrong precedent for zoning in the future. 

In May of 2014, a County land-use judge approved the conditional-use permits of Dar-us-Salaam, but with thirteen conditions. The most restrictive was the denial of the proposed residence accommodations building and use. The Dar-us-Salaam community appealed the decision along with a revised proposal that reduced the size of the project and limited residential facilities. The Howard County Department of Planning recommended the revised proposal for approval. After several days of public hearings before the Howard County Board of Appeals in October 2014, the Board voted to table the case because Dar-us-Salaam’s purchase agreement had expired in late September. The appeal was finally dismissed six months later when Dar-us-Salaam did not sign a new contract with the Woodmont Educational Foundation (Yaeger, 2014, Oct 31).

In 2017, the Woodmont Academy property was sold to the St. Mary Coptic Catholic Church for use as a church and Sunday school for around 100 families. The Church was able to gather the necessary CUPs to make this conversion. The Dar-us-Salaam community remains at its original campus in College Park, MD.

References

Last Updated

July 27, 2021

Collection

Citation

Bryce Bentinck, “Cooksville, MD,” U.S. Mosque Controversies, accessed December 5, 2021, https://usmc.ecdsomeka.org/items/show/58.

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