NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It's officially called the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, but its size, location and religion stirred some strong emotion Thursday night in Rutherford County.
"I found out when the sign came up," Mark Walker told News 2 just a few hours before Thursday's meeting.
Walker lives just across the road from the mosque site, which was given final approval May 24 by the Rutherford County Planning Commission.
Like many of his neighbors, Walker, who lives near Bradyville Pike and Veals Road, just southwest of Murfreesboro, said he had no idea the mosque would be built at the intersection and he's not happy about it.
"We are fighting these people for crying out loud, we should not be promoting this," he said while standing next to the site.
The current Islamic Center in Murfreesboro outgrew its site in an industrial building behind a Jiffy Lube on Church Street and right next door to an environmental company.
The issue brought out an overflow crowd to the Rutherford County Commission meeting Thursday night, trying to understand how the mosque was approved.
Rutherford County Planning Director Doug Demosi said religious places operate under different rules when it comes to building approval.
"The forefathers of our zoning resolution, when they wrote it, said religious uses were permitted by right in residential zones," he said. "It means that they did not require any rezoning or conditional use permit or anything like in order to construct."
A long explanation of those laws and how other churches were approved by similar means did little to ease this crowd's frustration about the mosque approval.
"Its 52,900 square feet on a very narrow county road without shoulders," said Jackie Archer, who addressed commissioners during the public comment portion of the meeting.
She was very critical the planning commission decision a month earlier.
"I was surprised they would approve of that for any religion," she said.
The mosque is a done deal that commissioners say they can't undo.