Neighbors of a proposed Islamic Life Center are asking for a judicial review of the Carmel Board of Zoning Appeal’s approval of the special use application to allow the mosque to be built. They claim that Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard used “administrative pressure” to push for the approval of the mosque on Feb. 26 by forcing the replacement of one of the BZA members.
Earlene Plavchak resigned from the BZA prior to the meeting, and Brainard appointed Brad Grabow, a member of the Carmel Plan Commission, days before the BZA made the decision in front of a crowd of hundreds in The Palladium.
The vote was 3-2, with BZA commissioners Brad Grabow, Dennis Lockwood and Leo Dierckman voting in favor of the mosque and Alan Potasnik and Jim Hawkins voting against it. BZA commissioners declined to elaborate on their votes.
The Islamic Life Center would be built by the Al Salam Foundation once funding is secured. It would be the first mosque in Carmel and would sit on five acres of a 15-acre parcel at 141st Street and Shelborne Road. The Al Salam Foundation declined to comment.
The lawsuit claims that Brainard should not have been able to appoint two members of the plan commission to the BZA. Potasnik, BZA president, also serves on the plan commission. It also alleges that Grabow showed bias toward approving the mosque, as evidenced by liking social media posts.
Brainard said it’s his policy not to comment on pending litigation, but he spoke in a general sense about how he approaches BZA matters.
“We’re well aware of laws that govern how the BZA operates, and we always carefully follow those procedures and laws,” he said.