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Lino Lakes real estate project that includes mosque could be paused under moratorium

Lino Lakes real estate development including mosque draws critics
Lino Lakes real estate development including mosque draws critics 01:50

LINO LAKES, Minn. — A real estate proposal in the north metro is drawing community opposition.

Faraaz Yussuf with Zikar Holdings wants to develop 156 acres of land in Lino Lakes.

The project includes hundreds of units of different kinds of housing, a variety of businesses and a mosque.

"There's a huge Muslim population in the north metro, Blaine for the most part," Yussuf said. "As we looked at creating a space that was friendly to the Muslim community, Lino Lakes just seemed like a natural kind of transition."

Yussuf says the land, which is on a sod farm, is under contract and he'd like to start construction next year.

But the city is considering a moratorium on the development and other nearby projects.

Rendering of Madinah Lakes Project Zikar Holdings

Yussuf thinks some of the opposition to his proposal stems from Islamophobia.

"If we didn't have the mosque in the picture, I think for the most part there wouldn't have been a concern," he said. "All we're asking for is for our proposal to be evaluated on its merits."

Dozens of people showed up Monday at city hall to a council work session discussing the potential moratorium.

Many supported the development, while others wanted to press pause, including some of the city councilmembers.

"This moratorium isn't meant to stifle development, but to ensure clarity, transparency and thoughtful planning," said Councilmember Michael Ruhland. "Let's take the necessary time to do it right."

The city says all projects are reviewed for  "an assessment of environmental factors, including the city's capacity to meet current and future water needs" because "water availability is an issue" for the city.

A city spokesperson says a moratorium would allow more planning time for the projects. 

No decision was made on Monday at the work session.

Community members in favor of pausing the project told WCCO their concerns are about the safety and cost of building on a sod farm, not the mosque.

Mahmoud Hassan, a Blaine resident who would consider moving to the new development, says he doesn't think Islamophobia is at the root of the moratorium discussion.

"I think it's a city process they have to go through," Hassan said. "I don't believe they're the kind of people that would do that. I hope not."

Here's the full statement from the city of Lino Lakes:

"The City is currently reviewing two land use applications for projects located along the Main Street corridor. As required by City Code, both projects will go through a robust review process that considers zoning ordinances, feedback from advisory boards and City Council, consistency with the City's Comprehensive Plan, and an assessment of environmental factors, including the city's capacity to meet current and future water needs. Water availability is an issue the City and its residents have actively monitored since 2017, when a court ordered the DNR to amend groundwater permits. Since then, several cities affected by the order, including the City of Lino Lakes, have appealed the amendments to their water appropriation permit. Until there is more clarity on this issue, the City will continue to proceed with caution to ensure we're able to meet our community's water needs.

"The City's 2040 Comprehensive Plan calls for a Master Plan for the Main Street corridor between Sunset Avenue and 4th Avenue.  A moratorium could be put in place to allow time for this planning process.

"At this time, no decision has been made regarding either a development proposal or a moratorium on development in the city."

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