The Lino Lakes City Council is considering temporarily halting a proposed housing development that also involves a mosque, a week after the project drew a crowd of hundreds to City Hall.

During a Monday night work session, the council discussed possibly putting a moratorium into effect for the project, Madinah Lakes. The council had raised concerns last month about the project, including whether it would use too much water. But developer Faraaz Yussuf, the owner of Zikar Holdings, said he thinks the moratorium idea was put into place because of the public outrage that he believes is partially rooted in Islamophobia.

"I think if there was no mosque in it, the company wasn't called 'Zikar Holdings,' and there wasn't a 'Faraaz Yussuf' trying to do the development, things would've gone differently," Yussuf said in an interview.

While the council discussed a moratorium Monday night, it did not make any decisions on whether to implement one.

The moratorium is "intended to be a tool that protects the planning process," city spokeswoman Meg Sawyer said in an email. Lino Lakes Mayor Rob Rafferty did not return a request for comment.

The proposed development would be built on 156 acres of what had been the Robinson Sod farm, at 310 Main St. Yussuf said the mosque would take up 10 acres, with the remaining land used for homes and a commercial corridor with restaurants, coffee shops and more. In discussing the moratorium, the city also cited concerns with another development proposal for the northwest quadrant of the city. The total moratorium area would be for 400 acres, which includes sod farm land north and south of Main Street.

At a City Council meeting last week, the council did not discuss Madinah Lakes, but several hundred people attended with the sole purpose of showing support or opposition to the project. A handful of residents said they had concerns about the strain the housing would put on schools, infrastructure and public safety, and one questioned during the public comment period whether residents wanted to live next to a mosque. Others there in support said they have been upset and surprised by the number of outraged comments on social media opposing the project.

Yussuf said it's his understanding the moratorium would go into effect for one year if approved, and that his company would seek to stop it if it were passed.

"We feel that our proposed development has huge benefits to the Lino Lakes community on a larger scale, so we're going to fight the moratorium as best we can and see what legal recourses are available to us," he said.

According to Lino Lakes' city planner, the project is tentatively scheduled to be discussed at at least four upcoming meetings between May and July. They are:

  • May 29, Environmental Board meeting
  • June 5, Park Board meeting
  • June 12, Planning & Zoning Board meeting
  • July 1, City Council work session