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Zoning Board Votes Down Proposed Muslim Community Center In Bayonne

BAYONNE, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A plan to build a Muslim community center in Bayonne, New Jersey has been defeated by a vote of the zoning board following a heated meeting that went on for five hours Monday night.

The board voted 4-3 in favor of the proposal, which needed a minimum of five affirmative votes in order to pass. Those who voted against it cited parking and traffic concerns.

The meeting before the vote attracted such a large crowd that the venue had to be moved from City Hall to Bayonne High School.

It quickly turned contentious as some residents voiced their concerns about the traffic and the type of events that would be happening inside.

Other neighbors campaigned, passing out flyers saying, "so each Muslim is attempting to follow and obey their books' rules, which is to kill and destroy and to take over the homes of those who are not Muslim," CBS2's Magdalena Doris reported.

"The minute you start putting out a flyer and say all of these other things and then end with the Muslim Brotherhood, you're saying what your real opposition was, you should know and learn what other people think, what other people do and how they worship," said resident Mary Losardo.

Those in the Muslim community made their case as being part of the fabric of Bayonne.

"We are asking to be your neighbors, we are asking to be people who we could sit down, we could talk with you guys and have dialogue and be neighbors with you guys," said resident Omar Abouelkhair.

Ultimately, the space was ruled unsuitable for commercial use.

"Fundamentally speaking, we do have a right to practice our own faiths and our religions," said Matt Duranz with the zoning board. "I definitely do not believe by any sense of the imagination that this should have been a religious issue. It's not. It's a zoning issue."

The nonprofit Bayonne Muslims group has been trying since 2015 to open the center, which would include prayer halls, a soup kitchen and classrooms.

The current center is located in the basement of an elementary school. CBS2 has not heard back from the community group about where they may be looking to move to next.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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