By Mark Barnes
In the 1990s, the U.S. government helped bring thousands of Bosnian refugees to America and many settled in Boise. While other refugees came to the area and then moved on over the years, the Bosnians decided to make the area their home. Now over 1,000 families reside in the area. They have lived here for over 20 years now. They have become Americans. Their children have been born here and they have died here too. The only problem is that they’ve run out of room to bury the dead of their community.
Last Wednesday, residents who live near 15000 Cloverdale Road were invited to an information meeting held at the Islamic Community of Bosniaks. Nearly 40 people attended to hear details about a proposed graveyard that the Bosnian community wishes to build in their area. The property is in unincorporated Ada County but borders property annexed by the City of Kuna several years ago.
Sabrina Durtschi, a planning project manager for Briggs Engineering, Inc. and Midhat Smajic, the Imam (similar to a pastor), of the Islamic Community of Bosniaks presented the plan and answered questions.
The project encompasses 35 acres. One third of that property, the farthest from Cloverdale Road, will be gravesites and a small chapel used to prepare the bodies for burial. The other two-thirds will be subdivided for two residential lots. Smajic said that the development of the acreage will include green space and fruit orchards for the benefit of the area residents.
The requirements for the Islamic faith for burial rites are different than in Christian graveyards. Smajic explained that most of the Bosnian community is Islamic with some multi-faith families. Nevertheless, the community had been using a section dedicated to Islamic burials in Morris Hill Cemetery. Over the last few years that location has filled up and they now need a dedicated burial site where they aren’t bound by specific, location based restrictions. He says that this site will last their community over 100 years.
Smajic explained that there are several other Islamic centers around the Treasure Valley and each reflects the cultures of those that attend them. This cemetery, however, will be private and for their community only, but will accommodate families with multi-faiths (Christian and Islamic for example).
On the initial plans and in the letter sent to neighbors, it mentioned a possible future mosque at the site that raised the eyebrows of several neighbors upon receipt of the letter. Smajic said that their current place of worship, at 6250 Cloverdale Road, is sufficient for now but they wanted to pencil in the option of building a mosque at the proposed site in the future. He said that would be “More than ten years or more if it were to even happen.”
Within several weeks Durtchi said they plan on submitting the paperwork for the conditional use permit. Megan Leatherman, Director of Development Services with Ada County Planning and Zoning, said that if everything runs smoothly they could be approved in six to nine months before construction could even start.
Of concern by attendees to the informational meeting was access to water for the dry area and issues with flooding on part of the property. Smajic said that the land has water rights and Durtschi added that a complete development plan including drainage is part of the development process.