With a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the Gwinnett County Commission denied the request of an area Bosnian community group to develop a mostly Muslim cemetery in Snellville that sparked racial and religious backlash in recent months.
The issue appeared to come down to the expense of developing the land, according to county requirements, not the opposition from some county residents.
“All of us were surprised, but also we respect the decision,” said Nail Cubroh, president of the Community of Bosniaks Georgia, the group that requested permission to turn the more than 12-acre lot into a cemetery.
Cubroh made clear in an interview after the meeting he did not think the decision had anything to do with racism or Islamophobia.
“I do not have that feeling. I didn’t hear any comments, anything like that,” he said.
At an earlier meeting, the county planning commission, which is appointed by the county commission, recommended development of the cemetery with conditions, including a “wrought iron-type fence” a five-foot-wide sidewalk and specific landscaping.
At the time, commission chair Chuck Warbington called out the county for the many emails he got that weren’t about facts.
“Frankly, I’ve been embarrassed and as long as I am in this chair, the demeaning of a person based on their creed, color, race or religion is inappropriate and our county demands that our citizens be better than that,” he said.
Faris Zejnelovic represented the Bosnian group before the Gwinnett County Commission on Tuesday night.
He told the commission the group couldn’t afford to meet its zoning conditions.
“Between purchasing the land and then developing in this way, it really is more than we can handle at present,” he said.
The cemetery is important to the Bosnian community, said Cubroh, because burial prices are so high, and many families struggle to afford burials.
He said the funding for the cemetery would have come from the community, and added, “We don’t mind assigning some portion of the land to other groups. But I know for our members, who pitch in, it will be free.”
The Community of Bosniaks Georgia says it will search for a different plot to develop a cemetery.