by James Ivancic Times Staff Writer Jan 7, 2019
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is seeking a special permit from Fauquier County officials to hold four events a year on a 515-acre site the group is hoping to purchase outside Warrenton.
The site is spread across seven parcels near Meetze and Turkey Run roads. The AMC, based in Silver Spring, Maryland, has a contract to purchase the land to host a single annual gathering – a Jalsa Salana — for up to 5,000 Muslim faith believers, which is held in the summer. The group is also seeking to host three smaller events at the site a year, drawing a maximum of 1,000 people, according to paperwork filed with the county.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has held its Jalsa Salana gathering at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg for the past 15 years. For 10 years before that, the event was held at the Dulles Expo Center in Virginia.
“Jalsa Salana is an annual three-day, family-oriented event which includes prayer, speakers, food and fellowship,” explains supporting material filed with the application.
The events are typically held Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “Alcohol is prohibited and there is no music associated with the event,” the application states.
The AMC plans to erect temporary structures for the events. Parking and areas of activity will be setback from adjoining properties. Carpooling and shuttles from local lodging will reduce vehicular traffic, according to the application.
A traffic-control plan will be developed to minimize traffic on Meetze Road, which fronts the property.
AMC is also proposing to bring in portable toilets and to use wells and/or portable tanks for water, the application states. Erecting signs isn’t proposed.
The Fauquier County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the AMC’s special exemption permit application on Thursday, Jan. 17, at 6:30 p.m. in the first-floor meeting room of the Warren Green Building, 10 Hotel St. in Warrenton.
Among issues that will be discussed is whether the gatherings are suitable for the location and what the traffic impact will be, explained Adam Shellenberger, chief of planning for Fauquier County’s community development department.
The department was still reviewing the application Monday and had not yet finished its staff report.
The planning commission could vote on a recommendation of approval or denial on Jan. 17 or postpone a decision. The Fauquier County Board of Supervisors will make final decision after holding a public hearing of its own.
A neighboring property owner, who asked that her name not be used, said she plans to attend the hearing to voice her opposition.
“I’m definitely going to be there and I know a lot of people who are planning to go,” she said.
The resident said she opposes the permit not because the applicants are Muslim but rather because “that’s not an appropriate location,” she said.
She said her family moved to Fauquier to enjoy the countryside, which will be impacted by the events described in the application.
“I’m going to be stuck in my house for three days,” she said of the larger, three-day event that could draw as many as 5,000 people.
The property is in a rural agriculture zoning district currently in agricultural use. Oak Creek Farm LLC owns 263 acres of the total 515 acres. Terrina M. Baker and Richard B. Wheeler own the rest. The properties have Warrenton mailing addresses, but are southeast of the town limits in the Cedar Run magisterial district of Fauquier County.
A contract to purchase the property by Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, Inc. was made on Sept. 8, 2018.
The applicant isn’t requesting a zoning change. The proposed use of the property is classified by the county as outdoor recreation, Class B spectator and non-spectator field events and activities.
Clarification: The addresses of the parcels under contract for purchase have a Warrenton mailing address, but were referred to in a county planning office as being located near Catlett. This story has been updated to note the site is in the Warrenton area but outside the town limits.
Reach James Ivancic at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is a Jalsa Salana?
Since 1891, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has held its annual convention, or Jalsa Salana, in countries around the world.
The U.S. event was most recently held in July 2018 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which has hosted it for 15 years.
During the 10 years prior, the event was held at the Dulles Expo Center, according to county documents.
“The principal aims of the annual convention are to facilitate greater spiritual awareness among community members, strengthen ties and promote peace,” according to the application the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community filed with Fauquier County.
Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, USA
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA is headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland.
It operates 73 chapters nationwide, including America’s oldest mosque, established in 1921 in Chicago, according to its website, which can be found here.
Ahmadiyya Muslims believe in the messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) (1835-1908) of Qadian. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad founded the AMC in 1889 as a revival movement within Islam, emphasizing its essential teachings of peace, love, justice and sanctity of life, its website states.
Today, the AMC is the world’s largest Islamic community under one divinely appointed leader, His Holiness the Khalifa of Islam, Mirza Masroor Ahmad aba.
The AMC spans over 200 nations with membership exceeding tens of millions, according to its website.
The AMC “categorically rejects terrorism” and endorses the separation of mosque and state, its website states.
Planning commission to visit proposed Islamic retreat site
Members of the Fauquier County Planning Commission are scheduled to visit on Wednesday a Warrenton farm that has been proposed as a location for this Jalsa Salana.