Muslim-centered community on hold as Lino Lakes approves building moratorium
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Muslim-centered community on hold as Lino Lakes approves building moratorium

The northwestern part of Lino Lakes will not see the construction of a new home, retail outlet, park or mosque — at least for a year.

The Lino Lakes City Council on Monday voted 4-1 to approve a one-year moratorium on residential development on a 980-acre parcel along Main Street, roughly between Sunset and 4th Avenue, giving the city’s northern district time to finalize a master plan for the area.

Monday’s vote was the latest hurdle for Zikar Holdings, which wants to build a Muslim-oriented community to be called Madinah Lakes on the Robinson Sod Farm site. The development would include single-family homes, townhouses, apartments, a senior center and a large mosque in the center. Retail and parks are also part of the proposed development.

“It’s demotivating,” said Suleiman Adan, deputy executive director of CAIR-Minnesota. “There’s always something being thrown at these developers.”

Mayor Rob Rafferty asked residents and other stakeholders who registered to speak during Monday’s public comment period to refrain from making comments that reference racism and Islamophobia, which have come up at previous meetings to discuss the contentious issue.

Members of the city’s public safety team were present to ensure order during the meeting.

Patty Miller, a 45-year-old Lino Lakes resident, supported the council’s decision, saying, “Let’s do this right and make sure we have well-planned developments, not just well-intentioned ones.”

Zikar Holdings submitted the application to the city in late April. Since then, at several City Council meetings, some citizens have raised concerns about increased traffic and noise, burdening schools, straining the city’s water system, environmental concerns and concerns about growing too much too quickly.

Minnesota law allows municipalities to enact a moratorium while studies are conducted to protect the planning process and the health, safety and welfare of residents.

Last month, CAIR-Minnesota officials accused the City Council of subjecting Madinah Lakes to more scrutiny than other projects.

“It’s been pretty clear since the application for this development was submitted that members of the City Council have tried to prevent it from happening,” Adan said Tuesday. “We wish they had been upfront about it from the beginning.”

While neither CAIR nor Zikar Holdings have announced their next steps, both companies have previously announced legal action.

However, the threat did not dissuade the council from introducing a moratorium, which will come into effect on August 15.

“No amount of tactics, intimidation, harassment will disgrace the legitimacy of our work,” council member Chris Lyden said before the vote for the moratorium. “Just because I disagree with you doesn’t make me an Islamophobe.”

Michael Ruhland, another City Council member, noted that Zikar Holdings filed the application after the city announced it was considering a moratorium.

“This does not constitute discrimination,” he said.

Developer Faraaz Yussuf said he was not surprised by Monday’s result, adding that it was not the end of Madinah Lakes. He said Zikar Holdings had taken over 11 miles of roads in Lino Lakes under its Adopt-a-Highway program and had a clean-up day scheduled for July 20.

“We plan to be part of the Lino Lakes community. We’re not going anywhere,” he said in a phone interview. “We face these battles in every city we go to. It just gives us the determination to make development a reality.”