STERLING HEIGHTS - The fight over a proposed mosque in Sterling Heights heats up as a local Muslim group accuses the mayor of religious intolerance.
Mayor Mike Taylor was heard on camera opposing a proposed mosque in the city at 15 Mile Road near Mound.
Taylor says his reasoning has nothing to do with Islamophobia and he supports Muslims moving in and worshipping in Sterling Heights.
But on a cell phone camera, Taylor says "I am on camera telling you I do not support the building of this mosque right here."
The move has been met with anger, protests and arguably a measure of Islamophobia. Residents have made questionable comments about Muslims and the potential mosque at previous council meetings.
"There are a lot of emotions and there are things being said on both sides of this issue that are not helping," Taylor said. "Only hurting."
"Much of this anti-Muslim sentiment that is rearing its head up in Sterling Heights comes from the Chaldean community," said Dawud Walid of the Council of American-Islamic Relations. "We empathize with the suffering the Chaldean community is going through in Iraq but this isn't Iraq, this is southeast Michigan."
But residents we spoke with say it's not about Islam, but location.
"I have Muslims and Catholics in my family," said resident Debbie Rossi. "This has nothing to do with religion, it has to do with the fact it's a residential area and we want to keep it that way."
"I have concerns as do other residents," Taylor said. "They have concerns about the size of this building. About how high it would go in the air, about how big it would be in that the residential area."
Taylor says he would have the same concerns if the would-be structure on 15 Mile Road were a church building. Even so, he's coming under fire for opposing the plan to build the mosque.
The Sterling Heights Planning Commission has the final say over whether it happens or not.
"The mayor has positional power," Walid said. "Even though he doesn't have a direct vote, there is a possibility he could influence people on the planning commission. He is the mayor."
"His concerns are misplaced," he said. "The planning commission members, I know all of them, they are men of integrity and they are going to make their decision on what is best for the city of Sterling Heights."
The planning commission will make its decision September 10. The people behind the plan to build the mosque are not commenting until that decision is made.