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Hazelwood mosque seeks permission to build its own cemetery in Spanish Lake

In a long exposure image, a blurry blue sedan drives past a plot of empty land. To the left of the car, by the road, is a pole and series of power lines.
Tristen Rouse
St. Louis Public Radio
A car passes a plot of land off Parker Road in the Spanish Lake area of north St. Louis County on Thursday. Dar AlJalal, a mosque in Hazelwood, wants to build a cemetery on the land to accommodate its growing membership.

A mosque in Hazelwood wants to build its own cemetery to accommodate the needs of its growing membership.

Dar AlJalal currently buries its members at the nondenominational Laurel Hill cemetery. But it now has more than 1,700 members, up from 500 in 2011, and is running out of space for new plots.

The mosque first began looking for land to build its own cemetery in 2016, said Tony Algam, who represented Dar AlJalal at a recent public hearing of the St. Louis County Planning Commission. It’s under contract for a five-acre plot of land in Spanish Lake, enough to hold about 5,000 graves.

“The cemetery will serve our community for generations by ensuring a respectful resting place for the future,” Algam said. “Establishing a new cemetery is vital for meeting our community’s long-term needs.”

There is one other Islamic cemetery in unincorporated south St. Louis County, but it is more than 20 miles from Dar AlJalal. Other nondenominational cemeteries will accept Muslim burials, but “our Islamic community requires a cemetery that aligns with our religious laws and customs,” Algam said.

The land backs up to the Hidden Lakes subdivision, where Welton Davey has lived for nearly 30 years. He told the planning commission he was worried about the impact of the cemetery on the value of his house.

“Living in north county as long as I have, I've seen a lot of economic decline. We've lost grocery stores and Jamestown Mall,” he said. “Now we're talking about adding something that adds no economic value to the community.”

Davey said he was also concerned about funeral procession traffic on Parker Road, which is a two-lane road at the site.

Cemetery supporters say they have data that contradicts Davey’s claim that property values decline when a cemetery is built.

Current zoning regulations for the land prohibit its use as a cemetery. The mosque has asked the county to change the lot’s zoning district and to grant an additional required permit. The planning commission held a required public hearing on Nov. 13 and may vote on the petition on Monday. The St. Louis County Council must also approve the zoning change for it to take effect.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.