KETR

Muslim cemetery proposal stirs controversy in Farmersville

Jul 23, 2015

A proposed Muslim cemetery between Farmersville and Lake Lavon has resulted in concern among locals. Media organizations from The Huffington Post to England’s Daily Mail have run stories on the issue. Currently, the permitting processed has been paused, while the City of Farmersville waits on a plat map of the project from the Islamic Association of Collin County.

Audio transcript

Mark Haslett: Along U.S. Highway 380, the countryside west of Farmersville has a bit of a roll to it. Nothing you’d call hills, but the land rises and falls a few times before flattening out near Lavon Lake. Right along one of these ridges is a vacant property. Not much to it – just wildflowers and weeds, with clusters of trees here and there. It’s an unlikely starting point for a controversy that’s put Farmersville in the national news. A proposed Muslim cemetery on this property has many locals upset. The Islamic Association of Collin County recently acquired this land. A city council meeting last week had a full house of citizens. I caught up with Farmerville public information officer Mike Sullivan to help sort out the facts from the rumors.

Mike Sullivan: The local reaction has been mixed. You have quite a few folks that are totally against it. You have some rational fears and misunderstanding and you have some irrational fears and misunderstanding. I know on the media side of it, they’ve shown a packed city council. You have a lot of people in there that just want to know what’s going on and what’s involved.

Haslett: Sullivan says that some suggested that a cemetery wouldn’t be the best way to develop the property. The property is near the lake, in an area that’s sure to urbanize eventually. But most of the vocal objections were based on the fact that the proposal is a Muslim cemetery.

Sullivan: Some people had concerns about the burial process – Islamic burial process. Some people have concerns that they’ll bring a mosque. Some people have concerns that there’ll be a school and that folks will start coming here.

Haslett: The Islamic Association of Collin County didn’t respond to a request for an interview, but spokespeople from that organization have said elsewhere there’s nothing to fear about the burial practices that would be employed at such a site. The bodies would be placed into caskets which would be enclosed in vaults. Some in Farmersville were worried that bodies would be buried directly into the ground wrapped only in a sheet, but existing laws prohibit that or any other potentially hazardous burial practice. As for other anxieties that the property was being acquired for a cemetery or a mosque –

Sullivan: That has simply never been submitted to the city, whatsoever.

Haslett: The proposal submitted to the city had just one structure in the plan – an outdoor pavilion. The property is about 35 acres total, though only a corner of that would be visible from the highway. The land isn’t within the city limits, but it’s in Farmerville’s extra territorial jurisdiction, so the city is the only governmental body in the picture. The county’s not involved. Sullivan said the plan city found the plan compliant with building regulations.

Sullivan: And then it’s forwarded to Planning and Zoning. They looked at it and approved the conceptual plan, and that’s where it sits today.

Haslett: Sullivan said that the city has no subjective authority to reject a project on private property just because it’s unpopular.

Sullivan: We’re going to follow the rules and what the law says. And we’re going to follow it to a T. If the Islamic Association of Collin County follows all the rules, follows the law and meets the standards by our code and our construction standards, and by state law and cemetery laws – we can’t, just simply and arbitrarily say “No, you can’t come here.” It doesn’t work that way. We have a Constitution and we’re going to follow that.

Haslett: Right now, the process is paused while the city waits for the Islamic Association of Collin County to submit a final plat. Then the platting would be reviewed by Planning and Zoning and submitted to the City Council for possible approval.