The architect for a proposed 4,250-square-foot mosque in Liberty Corner village described the exterior of the gray building as fitting in with other structures in the neighborhood — but when it came to the interior, the discussion before the Planning Board on Wednesday once again led to maximum capacity and adequate parking.
"I don't want anyone to think this building is out of scale," local architect Dan Lincoln said in describing the proposed mosque that the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge plans to build in place of a 1950s modified ranch at 124 Church St.
The new building, about the same size of the older home, which would be demolished, would have most worshippers entering from the rear entrance, according to continuing testimony before the board regarding the project.
The one-story mosque, with no basement and only a limited attic, would be covered with a gray resin siding that would look like wood, said Lincoln, who has worked locally as an architect and is president of The Historical Society of the Somerset Hills.
During last night's continued testimony on what would be the first permanent mosque in the Somerset Hills, Lincoln also said that the "modest" sized building on four acres would look pretty much like a home, and would comply with zoning regulations.
The height of the mosque building itself, which would have a hipped roof like many of the historic structures nearby as well as the Liberty Corner firehouse across the street, would not exceed 35 feet, he testified.
Two unlit minarets, spires common to mosques, also would fall under height requirements at a maximum of 38 feet in height, Lincoln said.
Lincoln then handed out a drawing the of the main floor of the building, in which he said that he had calculated capacity in the main 1,595-square foot prayer hall and a small multipurpose room would total 142 occupants.
The architect, as had others speaking before the board, said that the most crowded time for the building would likely be at Friday afternoon prayers, held from 1 to 2 p.m. on that day.
Lincoln testified that he had reached that number by consulting with the township's fire marshall and construction code officials regarding how to leave adequate space in the main prayer hall, where instead of prayer rugs, the workshippers would pray on a wall-to-wall carpet with spaces deliniated as prayer rugs.
That standard would place a maximum of 112 worshipers in the prayer hall and another 30 in a nearby multipurpose room, said Lincoln and the attorney for the mosque plan, Vincent Bisogno.
Both said the applicant would agree to cap capacity of the building at 142, even though it is less than the 150 figure projected at previous meetings by Dr. Ali Chaudry, president of the Islamic Society, as the ultimate capacity of the building as membership and attendance grow in the future.
The architect, Bisogno, board members and the Planning Board's attorney then went back and forth over whether the capacity of the mosque is being understated by using a larger rug size, when smaller rugs can increase that capacity.
When Lincoln said that the capacity of a mosque is different from a church, since the prayer rugs are larger than a seat, the board attorney, Jonathan Drill, said that the parking requirements may be different as well.
For example, although the study on which the proposed number of parking spaces, 50, is based show one parking spot required for three attendees, a mosque might generate more vehicles during Friday services, when worshippers who are primarily men might be coming from and returning to work, said Drill, harking back to a previous conversation with the traffic consultant for the mosque.
"We want to make sure if this is approved, there's enough parking," Drill said.
Drill said he would ask the applicant to apply an objective standard to calculating adequate parking at the next meeting.
The board and professionals agreed that the next meeting date to continue the hearing will be set for 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 8. The applicant also agreed to extend the deadline for the board making a decision on the proposal until the end of February.