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Dar-us-Salaam Announces Bid for HoCo Campus PDF Print E-mail
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Community News - Community News
Written by Muslim Link Staff   
Thursday, 09 August 2012 07:48

An initial concept for the future Dar-us-Salaam Education and Community Campus includes a perimeter of tall trees for privacy and a stream, walking and biking paths, and flower garden going all around the campus. Most of the parking will be underground and lie beneath the courtyard. Board members say they want to preserve green space and the natural setting and that despite the expense, underground parking is a good long term investment. CLICK TO ENLARGE.


 

66-Acre Education, Community Campus Would Be Hub of Islamic Learning

In a move that could change the Islamic demographics of the greater Baltimore-Washington metropolitan region, the Dar-us-Salaam community announced on Saturday, August 4, 2012 its plans to  develop a new home in rural Howard County, Maryland.


In late June, Dar-us-Salaam signed a contract to purchase the 66-acre Woodmont Academy campus in Cooksville, Maryland, a small town about 15 miles west of Ellicott City. The initial $10 million price was negotiated down to $8 million over the last several months; the contract includes a study period of up to 9 months to allow for zoning approvals.

Searching for a new home has been a top priority for Dar-us-Salaam's leadership for the last 8 years. “I would say we've looked at least 200 properties,” Dar-us-Salaam founder and Imam Safi Khan told the congregation at the conclusion of the Dar-us-Salaam Hifz School and Qur'an Programs iftar program held at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum. A “major announcement” was advertised as part of the Hifz School iftar program.

In 2010, Dar-us-Salaam signed a contract to purchase an industrial building on about 10 acres in Beltsville, Maryland but due to several factors the deal did not go through. A Muslim realtor and long time community member brought the Woodmont property to Dar-us-Salaam's attention in early January of this year.

A private catholic school, Woodmont Academy moved onto the Cooksville property in 2004, building a new 26,000 square foot state of the art middle school with an indoor gymnasium and adding five modular buildings to the property adding about 36,000 square feet of classroom and office space. Dar-us-Salaam's current facility is about 54,000 square feet.

Woodmont received approval from Howard County for a 3-phase, ten-year plan to build a full campus with thirteen buildings including separate middle and high schools for boys and girls, a large daycare, an indoor pool, gymnasium, auditorium, and other community and administrative buildings and over a dozen outdoor sports fields and courts. The full campus plan was approved for 1,700 students. However, after investing $5 million in traffic turning lanes and in underground water, waste, and power infrastructure, the school decided to close its doors due to dropping enrollment, a result of both the economy and disillusionment within the congregation with leadership according to sources familiar with the school.

“What attracted us most to [the Woodmont property] was the fact that they already received approval from [Howard County] to run a full education campus from pre-Kindergarten through the college level, and to have worship activities, and the fact that there was ample land to grow,” said Sayeed Jaweed, a member of the Dar-us-Salaam shura.

Dar-us-Salaam did not waste any time expressing interest in the property. After a tour of the facility in early January, the shura met with the director of the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning and with staff planners who worked on the Woodmont site-plan approval.

“We basically wanted to know exactly what approvals Woodmont received, how many students, how many parking spaces, all the conditions and limitations on the approval, and then we wanted to compare that with our current and long-term needs to make sure there was a match. [Howard County] was very open and helpful and we look forward to working with them,” said Jaweed.

Imam Safi Khan said the decision to move to a much larger property in a rural area was dictated in large part by Dar-us-Salaam's long term vision to “build a community that can showcase Islam in action.” Dar-us-Salaam's current projects include religious, social, media, youth, health, and business services and entities.

“We have to look at our community's growth in terms of the next 50 years to 100 years, not just 10 or 20 years down the road. This is an investment in the future of the community, for the Muslims who are here long after we are gone,”  Imam Safi Khan told about 200 community members who came to a Sunday, August 5 walk-through and town-hall meeting about the property.

A conceptual drawing of the future campus is available on the project's website www.homeoftheheart.org and features two school buildings, an administrative building and a large five-sided masjid around a circular courtyard. The concept plan also shows a stream and garden going around the property, walking and bike paths, a 10 acre farm, a lake, parking, and many trees. “The idea is to have a beautiful, peaceful place where people will want to spend time with their families. We want our neighbors to enjoy the property as well. The [conceptual drawing] is just one idea for the property and we are open to other ideas from the community,” said Imam Safi Khan.

Provided zoning and funding work out, Dar-us-Salaam plans to move all its operations including Al-Huda School to Cooksville in the summer of 2013. The current set-up at Woodmont should be sufficient for the next 5 to 8 years, say board members, after which Dar-us-Salaam hopes to begin constructing the future campus.

Dar-us-Salaam, the parent organization of Al-Huda School – a pre-K through 12th grade accredited full-time school – outgrew their current facility in College Park, Maryland less than ten years after moving there in 1997.

For the last eight years, Dar-us-Salaam faced challenges from a few hostile neighbors and a heavy handed city and county government intent on effectively shutting down the masjid activities.

Zoning ordinances allow Dar-us-Salaam to run a full-time school of around 650 students – the student body is around 550 – but the number of community “worshipers” is limited to 40. In 2006, Dar-us-Salaam started renting off-site facilities for activities like Islamic lectures, dinners, juma' prayer, and ramadan worship. All non-school related Dar-us-Salaam departments and projects like its funding development office, da'wa center, Muslim Funfest carnival committee, the Muslim Link newspaper, and other projects operate out of two suites in a nearby office building.

“Moving the masjid activities, especially juma' prayer, has really fragmented the community,” said Imam Safi Khan. “We feel strongly that the entire community, all of its projects and services, need to be based on one campus, and that the heart of that campus needs to be the masjid. The property in Howard County is well suited for this, In Shaa Allah,” said Imam Safi Khan.

Community reaction was overwhelmingly positive and many started looking at housing in the  Cooksville area less than 24 hours after the announcement. However, some Al-Huda School parents expressed concerns about the distance between the current College Park facility and the new property.

“We understand the distance is a challenge in the short term, and this fact was one of the things we discussed most since we discovered the property. But over the long term, the area is an excellent location to have a school and build a community, in shaa Allah,” said shura member Sayeed Jaweed, adding that the shura is looking at offering bus service for Al-Huda students. Cooksville is about 35 minutes from College Park.

Dar-us-Salaam has about 9 months to apply for zoning permissions and to raise the $8 million needed for the purchase; the community plans on soliciting donations locally, nationally, and internationally.

“Ramadan is the time to beg Allah for His Help. We are asking every Muslim who believes in the community building mission to roll up their sleeves for the next several months and really take this cause as their own. We are confident that if our intention is to please Allah and our efforts back that up, Allah will bless us with this campus,” said Imam Safi Khan.

To learn more, visit www.homeoftheheart.org .

UPDATE : The conceptual drawing described in this article is under revision and will not include underground parking; the final site plan will be submitted to Howard County for review and approval in the coming months, In Shaa Allah. -- 10-23-2012


Comments (17)
  • Community Sister  - Issues Remain Unresolved and Looming
    So what of this seemingly 'minor' issue concerning location and distance? And the FACT that the community center would be located near factories which have caused 1/5th of surrounding population to contract cancer? Not to mention the absolute rural quality of the area, so far removed from basic necessities and security a community such as ours would desperately need? And the families with jobs, children, LIVES already settled in College Park, because of Alhuda's current location? The SEVERAL Muslim-started businesses centered around the DUS location? A family moved from Alaska for the DUS community and Alhuda school. And several families moved from cities and states for the same reason. They made sacrifices; what about them? These aren't concerns just to be brushed aside. I wish the article would have addressed these points, or at least voiced the solutions that our community leaders have proposed for them. Lastly, yes... the community could use more amenities, more -stuff-. But this...proposal is far, FAR from ideal. If the school moves, it may result in a "new ummah," but only by divorcing the one still here.
  • Community Brother  - Please use google
    Sister -- 1/5th of the population of Cooksville has cancer? Wow. Did you inform the CDC in Washington DC? The UN ? It could be the Chinese testing new DNA transforming weapons. I did see a lot of oriental looking folks in that area. Come on, "community sister". You must be more intelligent in your selection of friends and which rumors you listen to. At least listen to the ones that don't make people laugh.
  • Community Sister  - I don't believe sarcasm have ever been a potent w
    Assalamu alaikum Brother, Since when did cancer, or even "rumors" concerning it, become laughable? Anyhow, no where did I state 1/5 of the population of Cooksville has cancer, but rather areas that are being environmentally affected by the factories contain a predominantly frightening amount of people who have it. MSNbc ran several articles on a frightening case of youth contracting cancer in factory towns a few months ago. As the trend goes with news, the outcry has died down, but those children still have cancer. They are still fighting for their lives. It isn't suspicious at all to you why such a gigantic property, with so many built in amenities, is so cheap? Location can bring up or bring down the price of a building, depending on the convenience and attraction to potential buyers. Which do you think applies in this case? What's bringing the price down of this seemingly too-good-to-be-true land? Also, what about the other serious drawbacks to this purchase? There are so many issues, and they are being brushed aside, for the worse of the community and its future. If these concerns (which weigh heavily not on just my mind, but several families--so many, in fact, that it lends incredulity to the "overwhelming positive reaction" stated in the article) are addressed and solutions can be proposed, then alhamdullilah. Allah will help us and insha' Allah grant us success. But the concerns barely register to anyone supporting this move, which is incredibly unfair. Feel free to respond or ignore, you know what they say about arguments on the Internet... This is all I'm going to say about the matter. I wish you and any readers coming across this a blessed Eid. Wa 'alaikum assalam.
  • Community Brother
    Did you even drive through Cooksville or look it up on the internet? What are you talking of "factory towns"??? There are no factories in Cooksville ... its a RURAL farming area. You need to stop parroting rumors from your "group" and do some independent research and independent soul searching.
  • Community Sister  - Oh, Brother...
    I was going to post a link to localdirectory but that's not allowed here. If you can so kindly search "factory" in "Cooksville, MD", you will find 377 results, for the FACTORY JOB LISTINGS ALONE. Plus, several more underneath with factories (not only including hallmarks of Corporate America like Walmart, Kmart, etc). Plus, whether you believe me or not, as stated in the town hall meeting itself, a brother who works minutes away from this location [in a factory] stated himself about the high cancer risk. Moreover, geography is not cut-and-dry but much more fluid that political boundaries make it appear. Different cities, with factories (such as Columbia) can border closer to a location (such as the HoCo Campus) than areas of Cooksville itself. So, yes, I have Googled, AND driven through Cooksville. And please stop assuming the intention of my opinions or their origins, ESPECIALLY considering the FACT that they are not being swayed by anyone from my so-called "group" (what GROUP?!) and are completely formed on the basis of Mine and My family's situation. Others' situations that may mirror our own I bring up for argument's sake, and they only lend credibility to our concerns. That you even consider any opinions about this move outside of your own to be harbored by only a clique of people with self-serving agendas is revealing of your own tolerance for a difference of opinion.
  • rural mom  - really?
    I live in Cooksville, and have for 20 years. There isn't a single factory in the area for miles. Look it up on a map for God's sake!
  • Another Sister  - If they moved before, they can move again
    walaikum assalaam sister, If Al-Huda attracted these brothers before to settle down in College Park, it should attract them again to settle down in Cooksville. At least there will be no real competitions to grow their businesses. As far as living in near areas, the opportunities are ample. The question is, are we too comfortable in the areas we live in now, and don't want to move? These projects can't be depended on few individuals who are too comfortable; in fact, these projects requires vision, planning and foreseeing of future of the entire Ummah, which you and I can't comprehend.
  • Community Sister  - I understand where you're coming from, really I d
    As salamu alaikum sister, It has nothing to do with comfort. I was personally 100% comfortable and--excited, even--for the Ritz move. That news, unlike this one, received "an overwhelming positive reaction" from the community. I agree with you that such planning is not for lay people like you or I. But certainly our concerns should be heard, because this move concerns the fate of ourselves, our children and our other family members. If our input was so unnecessary, then that town hall meeting some days ago served no purpose. It seemed more a vanity meeting, actually, considering how the opinions expressed there not only could not change the fact that a bid has already made but rather occurred AFTER a decision had been made itself.
  • Parent  - Memebr
    I could not agreed more with the “Community Sister”. Her point is well made and I am sure she expressed the opinion of about 80% if not more of the DUS/ ALHUDA Community. As a parent of one of ALHUDA’s student and with a house and a Government job in the area, I do not see myself moving to that area regardless of the big award. - It should be restated that a community is not about Building or Facility it is about the people who made up that community and for that matter I suggest that SHURA members next time survey the community, the students’ parents and see the reaction and willingness to move to Cooksville. In my case, the answer is we will not move anywhere but go back to a Muslim Country to raise our Children. - How about building an extension of the DUS over in Cooksville and leave the School where it is in College Park and see how many People will be willing to move and change their jobs, houses….friends… - In addition, I suggest that also the new Community adopt a new and different name, since we do understand and I hear that DUS will not have an issue getting new Community members and get established in Cooksville, due to a large Muslim community over there already. But that community did not move to Cooksville for DUS, but DUS did make the decision based on that Demographics parameters and the potential recruit for the new Community…and gave up on its own members!!! We wish you the best and most success and may god help us all and find an alternative to ALHUDA School.
  • AAR  - I moved to College Park for Al-Huda, too
    All those parents who are throwing the fact that they moved to College Park for Alhuda school and how dare anyone think of moving Alhuda away really need to stop being selfish and thinking only about themselves. I moved to Silver Spring MD to be near Alhuda. When they moved to College Park, I moved to College Park. Yes, moving is not easy, but didn't Allah say "did they think that they will just say 'we believe' and they won't be tested?" Those people who formed another "group" with a petition to "keep alhuda in College Park" think that Islam and the growth of the ummah should be on their terms, their schedule, and according to their convenience. Shame on them !
  • Anonymous  - Your self-righteous indignation is not convincing.
    Salaams AAR, I shouldn't be spending my 'Eid this way, but alas. The bait has been taken... Of course the community SHOULD grow and EXPAND. But expanding is not what is being proposed here, but rather a complete overhaul of everything. I am not a stranger to the "move-for-Alhuda-school" decision. My family has done it, as did several families before and after us. Before that, for whom it was feasible, many commuted for at least an hour to and then an hour back, because moving is one of three generally most stressful events in our first-world lives. But even commuting became too much-- I can attest to that with personal experience. Is it selfish to be concerned about this? Perhaps overhauling one's entire life is easy for you, but for most people, this is not reasonable, and it should have been considered before the decision for this bid was made. I would like to know why the plan with the Ritz building was to keep the current location and use that location as well (when the plans for Ritz was much more expensive!), but in this case, the entire school (and thus by extension a gigantic chunk of the community) must move almost 50 miles away?
  • not from the community brother
    I'm in the city but i feel what the sister is saying i mean its kinda ridiculous to think that even half of that community will move i mean people probably own homes n everything..and wouldn't this move take people away from the dar-al taqwa community that's already there?
  • Another Muslim Bro  - Why Can't we have 3 branches
    AlHuda already has a branch in PA. Why can't we have three branches, one in PA, one in Cookeville and one in College Park? Can someone please explain?
  • Anonymous  - Problems with Woodmont Academy site
    Dear Friends, Please understand that back when Woodmont sought to develop the site for their school with an enrollment of just over 1000, there was controversy over the suitability of the site for development. The major concerns were about the quality of the well water, the viability of a septic system of that size, and traffic from just the local area. It was issued a conditional permit and built despite the concerns and objections of many neighbors. You are seeking to develop far beyond what Woodmont ever had plans for. There will be resistance for exactly the same reasons that Woodmont was resisted. It's nothing personal or religiously motivated, it's just that large operations other than farms or single family homes on more than three acres are usually not welcome out here. I objected to Woodmont then, and I plan to file my objections to your plans as well. We take pride in our rural heritage and we do our best to develop the area in keeping with that heritage. In addition, consider that under very good traffic conditions you're looking at a travel time that would be a minimum of 45 minutes from downtown Silver Spring. There are often traffic problems on MD-97, and you should consider carefully how you think you're going to get to Cooksville if MD-97 is closed. In particular, the intersection of 144 and 97 has been the site of many traffic accidents, and most of the traffic is likely to use this intersection. Also note that MD-29 in vicinity of Interstate 70 is yet another problem traffic route. But even if this is acceptable, note that inclement weather will make a terrible mess of the commute. Maryland 97 is a two lane country road out here, as is MD-144. It becomes impassible due to weather very quickly. Most residents in this area have a four wheel drive vehicle of some sort for good reason. Also note that temperatures are about five degrees cooler here than in Silver Spring. Weather that wouldn't be a problem for you there, is often significantly worse out here. I note that you seek to conduct adult education activities. Woodmont had plans for minimal after-school activities that represented a very small fraction of their daily volume. Their permit was for a school, and only for a school. Your land use permit will probably look no different. If you are discovered to violate that land use permit, you can expect that later stage development permits will be denied. The plot of land, 66 acres, may seem like a lot to you who live in the city, but when you're talking about a well and septic system, it's actually quite small. There are public schools nearby in Lisbon, Glenwood and Glenelg that already have problems with their well and septic systems. They're on more land and have smaller populations than what you're proposing. But don't take my word for it, do your homework very carefully. Remember, you could easily find yourselves with a bunch of worthless buildings on land that won't support anything close to the scale activities you seek. I wish you all the best, and good fortune, but please find another place for this ambitious activity.
  • Arif  - Let's Learn to Trust
    May Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala) bless this project. We've unfortunately put our trust everywhere except in our leadership (ex. "government jobs" as mentioned in the comments). This reminds me of the Prophet's Life when he was in Hudaybiyah and told every Muslim to get up and leave - the reason being, the Muslims had come for pilgrimage but due to negotiations, they were asked to come back at a later time. At that time, even many of the senior sahabah refused, frustrating and disappointing the Prophet (peace be upon him). It was the words of his wise wife who told him that if he made the move first, then his community - i.e. his companions - would follow. Let us also follow in this same way and think strategically for the next 200-300 years instead of thinking about our "government jobs" and nice commutes. At least the longer commute will be on the road to Jannah.
  • mhoffman.hoffman739  - buy what
    what else would they like to buy.
  • Local  - Local
    Hey, i live right next to cooksville. beautiful place. Honestly, i dont know if this is the best place for a 650 student school. The housing is filling here, and they are destroying the farms to build more houses. People say they want to move to rural land cause of the farms but dont realize that this demand they are creating it destroying the area. Please go somewhere else, this is not a place for a christian school, muslim school, or even public school. Why do you think Woodmont failed in the first place? Move to a more populated area, closer to college park, and keep the farms rural. We dont need another 650 kids an their familys here :)
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