The Santa Clara County Planning Commission on Aug. 22 approved plans for a mosque and community center in San Martin, without any conditions, on a 5-2 vote.
Commissioners Vicki Moore and Bob Levy voted against the project proposed by the Cordoba Center mosque and community center, repeating their previous arguments about the project’s scale and coherence with the general plan was a main concern.
“I’ve reviewed hundreds of projects over the years,” said Levy at the meeting. “But this is definitely one of the more challenging ones.”
The commission had asked staff in May to come back with two possible versions of the project, one 25 percent smaller, another 50 percent smaller. Ultimately, the commissioners decided not to change the project. The planning staff had recommended approval of the project in May.
Commissioner Aaron Resendiz, who has been a vocal supporter of the project, made a motion to accept the original project proposal. Chairperson Kathy Schmidt, whose vote against the project was pivotal at the May meeting, changed her vote on Aug. 22. She attempted to assure the audience that the rigorous process the Cordoba project was subjected to was standard.
“When we analyze important projects, we always have these kind of analyses,” Schmidt told the crowd. “That is our job, to look at things in detail and make sure they work for where they are.”
A permit for the cemetery portion of the site was unanimously approved by the commissioners and will now go to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors for approval.
The South Valley Islamic Center (SVIC) has been working to get the project approved for several years, after first purchasing the land in 2006. SVIC’s current proposal is a 20,000 square foot site, which would make it the largest rural/residential zoned structure in San Martin. The proposed cemetery would have 3,000 graves spread out over time, with a cap of 30 burials per year under the county staff-recommended mitigation measures.
The center found new life in 2016 with a 15.8-acre plan that included a mosque, community center, cemetery, orchard and children’s camp.
If the commissioners had denied the project in its totality in May, SVIC could have appealed the project to the county board of supervisors. To SVIC members, the request for a downsized project was just another delay tactic.
Hamdy Abbass, spokesperson for the SVIC, said that the community is now taking the project one step at a time. “All of that cost us time and money,” said Abbass. “They are not going to change our hearts or our minds.”
He said there is a sense of relief among the community about the decision and that they’re excited to move forward.
If the decision is appealed within 15 days of the approval, then the project in its entirety will go to the board of supervisors.