Metroland News Service Imam Shafiq Hudda, shown here in 2011, wants to build a new Islamic centre in Kitchener's Huron Business Park.

KITCHENER — Shafiq Hudda is surprised to hear that Mayor Carl Zehr may oppose an Islamic centre that plans to open in the Huron Business Park.

“He said that he would try and help us with the zone change,” Hudda said. “He would do whatever he can to help us.”

Hudda is the imam for the Islamic Humanitarian Service, which spent $495,000 to buy two vacant hectares that are not zoned for full religious use.

“We need to expand to a bigger place,” Hudda said. “Our congregation has increased.”

The Islamic centre is currently in an industrial area on Hollinger Crescent in Kitchener. It serves a congregation of 400 that includes 150 active participants.

Zehr denies pledging support for a zoning change.

“I don’t know where he would have got that information,” he said. “I remember him talking to me about it some time ago.”

Zehr is leaning against the rezoning request. Like city planners, he favours preserving the business park for industry and jobs.

Kitchener council expects to debate the zoning request Sept. 17.

Hudda denies his congregation erred in buying a site they know is not approved for the $1-million building they plan to erect. He points to a church and school that operate in the same business park.

“It’s not unreasonable to expect that the zone change is a possibility,” Hudda said. “We still don’t feel it will be much of a challenge.”

The Islamic centre would include a custom-made mosque, charity offices, classrooms for a weekend school, a kitchen and an outdoor playground.

Hudda said the site at 60 Washburn Dr. is nice, safe and centrally located for the congregation.

He said the current Islamic centre gets along well with its industrial neighbours. He’s confident it will not bother new industrial neighbours who have objected.

If approved, the Islamic centre would be erected in 2013.

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