County planners gave unanimous approval on Thursday for an Islamic center to be built on Lower Sacramento Road.
The San Joaquin County Planning Commission approved a use permit to applicants Taj Khan, of Lodi, and Cecil Murphy to construct a 10,200-square-foot building at the same location as a similar project that the Board of Supervisors rejected in 2005.
The commission's approval came a lot easier this time around because one of the opponents reached a legal agreement with Khan and Murphy. Details of the agreement were not released.
Attorney Howard Seligman, representing Eduardo and Ximena Araya, who live just south of the Islamic center site, said he and his clients neither support nor oppose the project. Seligman said he and an Islamic center attorney spent considerable time during the past three weeks negotiating the agreement.
Mike Hakeem, a land-use attorney, told commissioners that the new Islamic center project is a better one than what was brought before county planners in 2005 because Lower Sacramento Road is now four lanes and has a concrete barrier between Harney Lane and Armstrong Road.
The building will be built farther away from the Arayas than what was planned in 2005, and the center no longer includes plans for a school. The center will be completely gated, Hakeem added.
Woodbridge resident John Lloyd Marshall, a retired Army colonel, said he served in several Islamic countries.
"They have been brothers to me," Marshall said.
Katie Matthews, representing the San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation, told commissioners of the bureau's concern about a house of worship moving into an agricultural area.
Matthews said after Thursday's meeting that she realizes that the Planning Commission hearing on the Islamic center wasn't the correct vehicle to express her concerns, but the issue of churches being built in agricultural areas should be addressed when the county updates its General Plan.
Planning Commission chairman Michael Devencenzi of Woodbridge said he was still concerned about traffic issues after he and his wife checked out the site Friday evening.
The Islamic center will hold up to 249 people during its Friday afternoon prayer services, Hakeem said. Fewer people are expected to be there at other times.