AFTON, Minn. – The Planning Commission of the City of Afton voted 6-0 to approve a conditional use permit for a new Islamic Center development in Afton.

The Islamic Society of Woodbury owns 29 acres of property south of I-94 on Hudson Road.

The Center development is to build on 10 acres, leaving 19 acres as farmland. The 10,000-square foot building is to be twice the space of the current, rented facility in Woodbury.

The issue brought out a standing room only, full house to the tiny Afton City Hall for the meeting. Many residents close to the property expressed concerns about noise and traffic, but were assured by Society representatives that there would be no loudspeaker “calls to prayer” from the planned 50-foot minarets in the design.

“It is really a Center that goes beyond just a place to worship,” said Irfam Ali, Society Board member. “It will be used for spiritual needs for social purposes and to really engage the community in interfaith dialogue. We have got a lot of church partners. We have worked with Minnesota Council of Churches.”

One resident expressed concern about the effect on property values, saying he had learned that the presence of a mosque drops such values by 10-percent, but he admitted that his information came from Britain.

A woman worried aloud that Sharia law would be imposed. That remark drew gasps and an explanation that that would not happen.

The vast majority of comments had praise for the Islamic Society as “good neighbors” and support for the project.

Ali extended an invitation to all present to visit the facility when it is “up and running.”

The project must be approved by the full Council at its April 19th meeting. The project must also get a permit from the Valley Branch Watershed.