In 2009, the Mississippi Muslim Association (MMA) applied for a permit from the Madison County Planning Commission to build the 11,000-square-foot Magnolia Islamic Center. The new Islamic center would serve 100-150 local Muslim families and allow them to avoid long drives to MMA’s mosque in Jackson. Initially, the City of Madison had stated that the property was in a certified area for sewage service by the city, but city officials later withdrew that statement saying that MMA would have to gain a permit from the Mississippi Department of Health to build an alternative waste management system. As a result, the County Planning Commission denied MMA’s request in April 2009 (Lynch, 2009, Jul 9). MMA appealed the decision. On August 3, 2009, the Madison County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to grant MMA the request for a special exception but with several conditions that included the provision of water and sewer. Given the City’s denial of sewer service, the conditions put MMA’s project in jeopardy.
Residents opposing the project held that the mosque did not fit the character of the neighborhood, jeopardized prospects for future commercial development in the area, and would lead to declining property values. While the area was zoned residential, the planned mosque was located on a strip of land that officials and residents expected to become a commercial strip in the future. Residents stated that the mosque would look awkward within this commercial area. At the initial Board of Supervisors meeting on August 3, 2009, many residents showed up in opposition and presented a petition against the project with over 400 signatures. Opponents hired attorney John Reeves who asserted that the preliminary approval contained many stipulations such as the requirement of a sewage master plan, which could prevent the construction of the Islamic Center (Warren, 2011, Jan 7).
Following preliminary approval in August 2009, the Magnolia Islamic Center initially received certification only for a smaller onsite septic system. After re-certification several months later, the County Supervisors verified the onsite wastewater treatment plant once it had received assurance from the local water supplier and the Mississippi Department of Health that the center had met requirements for water and sewer treatment. On March 22, 2010, after a delay of nearly a full year, the Board of Supervisors gave final approval (3-2) to the project in its original scope, but with the stipulation that it only be used as a place of worship, and not also as a health clinic (Lynch, 2010, Mar 22). Following its approval, the Magnolia Islamic Center was able to break ground on the project later in 2010. Construction has been completed and the Magnolia Islamic Center is currently in full operation.
- Lynch, A. (2009, July 9). Reeves lends weight to mosque opposition. Jackson Free Press. Retrieved from www.jacksonfreepress.com.
- Lynch, A. (2010, March 22). Mosque construction planned in April. Jackson Free Press. Retrieved from www.jacksonpreepress.com.
- Warren, A. (2011, January 7). Year in review. Northside Sun. Retrieved from NewsBank: Access World News – Historical and Current.