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Decision on religious center's compatibility in rural area comes soon

CLEARVIEW — Will a remodel of a mosque on State Street be deemed compatible enough for its rural Clearview neighborhood?
An answer from Snohomish County Hearing Examiner Peter Camp is expected soon following a public hearing held Feb. 23.
Whether neighbors welcome the religious center’s activities is another matter.
There have been plenty of comments, on and off the record, since The Husaynia Islamic Society of Seattle applied for a conditional use permit to remodel a pole barn for its religious services on the former 5.5-acre horse arena it bought.
Neighbors have complained of excessive noise from chants and prayers when Husaynia uses the property for special ceremonies. Several neighbors say the mosque does not fit the countryside character of the neighborhood.
Lengthy public hearings have focused on noise mitigation at the site. Feb. 23’s hearing stretched to three hours. County code allows religious facilities on rural R-5 land as conditional uses.
Camp has until March 16 to weigh public testimony and issue a ruling. He could deny the permit, remand it, or approve it with conditions.
“Anybody suggesting they know how I’m going to rule on this thing has no idea,” he said at one point during the Feb. 23 hearing, “because I don’t even know.”
At a prior public hearing last fall, Camp asked for details on proposed soundproofing for the 2,600-square-foot pole barn that will become the new mosque.
Pole barns are structures built without foundations using poles and beams, such as picnic shelters and animal enclosures.
Husaynia hired Seattle firm SSA Acoustics to analyze the barn and predict if interior improvements would comply with county noise ordinances. SSA representative Joel Ellstrom said proposed insulation in the redesign “will be more than sufficient” to contain noise within the mosque.
“I don’t feel like there’s any risk of exceeding noise levels at adjacent property lines,” he testified Feb. 23. “I don’t see any reason why they should be held back from developing the building.”
Ellstrom acknowledged, however, that his analysis was limited to the interior of the mosque and did not factor in the sounds of a planned HVAC unit or open summertime doors and windows.
Opponents questioned the accuracy of the SSA report, saying it relies too much on speculation and does not factor in enough information.
It’s a “shoot from the hip” analysis, said State Street neighbor Greg Gilbertson, who testified he has worked 37 years in construction.
A pole building is the cheapest way to build a structure, he said. “They don’t look at acoustic ratings on a pole building. It’s a tool shed.”
“We are so far away from understanding a schematic prediction of what the noise will be,” Gilbertson testified. “I question the detail of the insulation value. The noise of traffic is a concern. I just don’t see enough facts and calculations to show that it’s not going to impact us in a negative way.”
Road traffic to the religious center should be considered, some also contend.
Rick Aramburu, a hired Seattle lawyer, argued for concerned citizens that factoring in the number of people and cars at the property at various days and times is essential for noise assessment.
In a Sept. 23 letter responding to public comments, Husaynia stated an average of 35 to 50 people will attend Friday evening worship services and a maximum of “about 75-80” will attend four annual special events held between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Two of these are staged outdoors if weather allows.
The letter also cited a traffic study forecasting that the religious center would generate 206 daily trips, compared to 78 for the former horse boarding/training facility.
Husaynia writes “there will be no long-term noise impact anticipated during any of the programs because the worship service is confined within the building.” It adds that “there will be no exterior loudspeaker/amplifier/speakers, including music. It is certain that this religious facility will not be a source of long-term disruptive noise in the neighborhood.”
State Street neighbors aren’t so certain. They have complained noise from events in the current building has penetrated closed doors and windows of their homes and has been heard several properties away.
One neighbor posted a video of Husaynia worshipers chanting loudly outside the barn on the group’s property.
Husaynia acknowledged the video, saying outdoor chanting is part of an annual festival. Representatives promised to ensure that future chanting will fall within legal ambient noise limits.
Husaynia's land use representative Onum Esonu testified last week that there are no plans to use the mosque beyond regular worship services and special events.
But the Husaynia website states a goal to build an interfaith community at the site. And the organization’s mission is to “provide religious, social and educational services.”
Camp had asked for any sheriff’s reports of noise complaints at the Husaynia site. None were referenced at the Feb. 23 hearing.
“I don’t think a lot of reports were made,” said Terry Johnson, who lives adjacent to the Husaynia property. “Neighbors generally go to one another” and talk.
She said she has had a few friendly conversations with Zahra Abidi, Husaynia’s founder and president. Yet she’s still wary. She said that unlike a family moving in next door, “this is an organization. It comes with all that goes along with it.”
State Street neighbor Carter Burns said he fears the mosque will form a “noise island” in the middle of the community.
“If we have bigger and more services anticipated, but not reflected in the site plan to mitigate noise, I can only assume there will be more noise,” Burns said.
Annual special events permits have allowed some religious gatherings here since 2020. County planners stopped this practice when approving last year's special event permit and attached a specific note saying that one would be the final one.



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