Al-Ahad Islamic Center South Whitehall mosque

SOUTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. – South Whitehall Township approved a plan Wednesday to raze a two-story mosque on Ridgeview Drive and replace it with a larger structure.

The building will be replaced by a three-story mosque with 26,000 total square feet. The owner of the 1500 Ridgeview Drive property was not represented at Wednesday's commissioners' meeting, but correspondence was addressed to Gulam Jaffer of Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat of Pennsylvania. The current mosque is known as the Al-Ahad Islamic Center.

Commissioner Diane Kelly, citing neighbors' concerns, questioned why 13 parking spaces were being removed as part of the construction of a larger building.

"A resident advised that when there is an event here on this property, cars are frequently parked on the grass and lined up on the street," she said.

David Manhardt, head of the township's department of community development, said the proposal meets South Whitehall's parking requirements.

The commissioners approved the plan 5-0.

Other actions

The township turned off the function that displays names in GoToMeeting virtual sessions because two people used screen names referring to Township Manager Renee Bickel. Pseudonyms "Remove Renee" and "Bickel Needs To Go" prompted that move.

The recent work stoppage by South Whitehall's public works staff was not mentioned. Board President Christina "Tori" Morgan said after the meeting that an "injunction was issued today and the negotiating team is looking forward to continuing discussion with the union."

The workers went out on strike earlier this month over compensation and other issues. A township statement afterward referred to the work stoppage as "an illegal strike during the bargaining process."

South Whitehall said contractors would be hired, if necessary, to provide essential services. In regards to the impending winter weather expected Thursday, Morgan added via email that "there are contractors lined up to handle the snow event."

In other business, the commissioners approved spending $52,426 to replace 40 picnic tables, three grills, six benches and 20 trash cans at Covered Bridge Park that were destroyed or washed away during Tropical Storm Isaias last August.

Parks and Recreation Manager Mike Kukitz said the force of stormwater washed away some of the 200-pound tables tables and destroyed others that were chained in place. All expenses will be covered by insurance.

A new township website will be launched on Thursday, Manhardt said. The site should be considered a work in progress, and bugs will be worked out as they are discovered.

The next full board meeting will be March 3 at 7 p.m.

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