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Proposed Norwalk Mosque settlement would allow plan to go ahead

Updated: 5:55 p.m.

NORWALK, Conn. – A minaret will tower quietly over a Norwalk neighborhood, according to a settlement worked out by city officials, lawyers and the Al Madany Islamic Center.

Pending votes by the Common Council and Zoning Commission, the city will allow the mosque to be built at 127 Fillow St., and the plaintiffs in the case will be paid $100,000, under the terms set forth in an email sent Tuesday afternoon to city officials.

The Common Council will be asked to consent to the financial payout as laid out by Thomas R. Gerarde of Howd and Ludorf LLC of Hartford, who is representing the city. The matter will then return to the Zoning Commission for a vote on the final terms of the agreement.

There are questions as to whether the city will go along with the agreement. Gerarde complains in his email of communication lines breaking down, saying the city has not responded to his last three emails. He said he had been told that the city did not have a settlement to discuss. “This is not factually correct,” he said.

The proposal by the Al Madany Islamic Center to build a mosque at 127 Fillow St. has been fought vigorously by the Stonegate Condominium Association and other area residents. The proposal was denied by the Zoning Commission on June 6. Al Madany Islamic Center then retained Storzer and Greene, PLLC, a law firm with offices in New York and Washington, and filed the suit in U.S. District Court. The suit alleged violations of the First and 14th amendments, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and Connecticut’s Religious Freedom Act. The suit also challenged the city’s zoning regulations.

Under the terms laid out in the email, the mosque proposal will be approved with these stipulations:

  • “No parking” signs will be posted on Fillow Street
  • If more than 435 people are expected at the mosque, a shuttle will run back and forth to the Maritime Garage municipal parking lot or another city-owned lot, at the center’s expense.
  • The center will hire police officers to handle traffic and enforce parking regulations on its two high holy days, Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. It will hold additional services if it expects attendance to exceed seating capacity.
  • There will be more landscaping to screen the facility than originally planned
  • People will not shout from the minaret. There will be no amplified sound from the minaret.

Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency (CIRMA) will pay $100,000 to Al Madany Islamic Center to cover its legal costs.

On Nov. 29, the Zoning Commission voted 6-1 to approve the following resolution: “Subject to an agreement on the terms and conditions of the final settlement agreement, we consent to a resolution to allow for zoning approval for the mosque and accessory use building.”

Al Madany Spokesman Farhan Memon confirmed the details of the email, saying the information is accurate. He said, “We encourage the city council to ratify this settlement.

Gerarde refused to comment, citing attorney/client privilege.

Moccia did not return a request for comment.

Non binding term sheet

Comments

7 responses to “Proposed Norwalk Mosque settlement would allow plan to go ahead”

  1. Dave McCarthy

    Thank god this story is merely an exaggerated reading of an inappropriately leaked email. No settlement has been reached. The only vote that has been taken was one to authorize exploring the possibility of a settlement under conditions.

    Perhaps it is very appropriate that Mr. Gerarde’s emails were not returned.

  2. LWitherspoon

    Public sentiment against the mosque is overwhelmingly negative among those who live anywhere near the proposed site. Will the issue become a political football in this election year?

  3. Broad River

    I can partially understand that ‘ There will be no amplified sound from the minaret.’ I hope this doesn’t mean church bells need to be quieted in our town as well.

  4. Suzanne

    David McCarthy, what do you know that we all do not? We keep receiving reports in the press that the mosque is a fait accompli. If this is the case, the City did not fight very hard: they could have negotiated a land swap agreement so the mosque could still be a reality in a more appropriate setting. I still say there could not have been much of a traffic study. If you drive from up hill and down toward Taylor that three-way intersection is an accident waiting to happen. There simply is so grounds under the 1st and 14th Amendment. I feel sold out, once again, by my town government that is supposed to retain and protect neighborhoods from inappropriate development.

  5. Hanif

    Thank God
    Finally freedom of religion for norwalk Muslims people.
    May God help you and make it easy for you guys .
    we are going to miss you in bridgeport masjid
    🙂 …

  6. Oldtimer

    David
    When counsel for both sides, and the City Liability insurance carrier have reached agreement, there is an agreement. It is not final until the council votes to agree, or not.
    If it is carefully explained to the council, it will probably be approved as failure to approve can result in costly litigation where it could cost the City a lot more, even though we believe religious discrimination was not a factor. The federal court will want to know when was the last time the City turned down a house of worship. If it never happend before, the court may believe the plaintiff’s claim of de-facto religious discrimination, and unless the City can overcome that belief, it could get very expensive. The fact the story got out to the press may offend some, but is not relevant to the issue before the court.

  7. John

    Unbelievable that the Town of Norwalk would just throw out it’s zoning laws. This is clearly a zoning and traffic issue. The mosque wants to turn it into a religious issue. It’s not. Clearly the wrong place for a project of this scope. Minaret towering 10 stories over its neighbors. Insanity.

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