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Norwalk council tables vote on Al Madany settlement after offer to discuss other locations

Stonegate lawyer Adam Mocciolo urges the Norwalk Common Council to accept the settlement Tuesday in the City Hall community room.
Stonegate lawyer Adam Mocciolo urges the Norwalk Common Council to accept the settlement Tuesday in the City Hall community room.

Updated, 6:54 a.m., additional comment from Mayor Harry Rilling.

NORWALK, Conn. – A new offer of compromise and an overwhelming amount of information were cited Tuesday night by Common Council members who voted unanimously to table the vote on the proposed settlement of the lawsuit filed by the Al Madany Islamic Center against Norwalk.

After about 1½ hours of passionate arguments for and against the proposed settlement at Tuesday’s Council meeting, Al Madany spokesman Farhan Memon said the center would put a two-year moratorium on building the proposed mosque at 127 Fillow St. to allow time to look for another location – but only if the council approved the settlement.

Michelle Maggio (R-District C), David McCarthy (R-District E) and Rich Bonenfant (R-At Large) said that was part of the reason they were willing to table the vote.

The motion to table came after nearly three hours of passionate, thoughtful arguments, for and against the settlement, in the packed community room, stuffed to the gills with more than 200 people. There was some confusion about when it would be tabled to – Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) expressed concern that the council didn’t really know how long the federal judge overseeing the case would give the council to work on it. Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola said he was confident that the judge would give the council two weeks, and the next public movement on the issue is expected for Sept. 23.

That could mean voting on Sept. 23 to table it again, council members said.

“I will be going to federal court within the next two weeks I hope and discuss our situation here and how it relates to Norwalk,” Rilling said. “I’d like to instill in the judge how important this decision is to Norwalk and she should be a little bit understanding and try to work with us and we’re working in good faith to make this happen.”

The meeting began with what several people later referred to as a threat: Attorney Peter Viegeland of WilmerHale, the firm representing Al Madany in the lawsuit, said the firm’s legal expenses at this point are at $6 million, which a federal judge could order Norwalk to pay if the case continues and Norwalk loses, he said.

Former Corporation Counsel Peter Nolin attacked that. “I can’t imagine how even a New York law firm who brings two partners to listen to a public hearing could spend $6 million in the short time this case has been around,” Nolin said. There is no guarantee that a judge would order Norwalk to pay the fee if Norwalk lost, he said.

Memon first ticked off things that had been expected of Al Madany that weren’t expected of other religious institutions, evidence, he said, of discrimination. He then mentioned that the reduced size of the community hall proposed as part of the settlement meant that Al Madany had given up its classrooms.

“We feel that Al Madany has listened to the community and its concerns,” Memon said. “We continue to believe that we can work with the city and the Zoning Commission to find other areas where we can find accommodation. That may mean that if the Common Council decides to pass the resolution tonight that we can talk about having a moratorium on building on the property. It may mean that we can talk about looking for alternative locations for the mosque to be built if there are alternative locations to be found. But first we have to close this chapter of the litigation. We are under a court-imposed deadline where if we don’t come to a settlement litigation resumes with all of its cost and time and everything else. But I do think under the leadership of Mayor Rilling, and other common councilors that we can work together and look at other alternatives that exist. That’s my pledge to you all.”

Attorney Chris Bouchoux of WilmerHale, lawyer for Al Madany, explained further.

“What Al Madany is offering tonight, and is willing to practice as a condition of the resolution to approve this settlement is that for the next two years, the next two years having settlement approval, Al Madany will work with the city to find other potential suitable spots in Norwalk to build a mosque,” Bouchoux said. “Some folks have already been dismissive of that pledge, but what I have heard a lot in the last two weeks is that Al Madany needs to be a good neighbor. This effort is Al Madany trying to be a good neighbor, trying to be there for the city of Norwalk, to work together, but the condition is that this lawsuit that has gone on for years while they do not have a place to worship properly, is to settle on the agreed to terms and that Al Madany will work diligently and forcefully with representatives of the city to find an alternative location.”

Nolin took issue with that as well.

“I have never heard of signing the agreement then ‘we’ll look for a compromise,’” Nolin said.

After the motion to table was made, Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) mentioned the three-hour Zoning Commission meeting last week as well as the “five and a half hour long” council executive session Monday – in which members saw the actual language of the settlement for the first time and asked many questions – in addition to all the comments made to the council as reasons not to vote on it Tuesday.

“We need a little bit of time to kind of digest everything ourselves,” Hempstead said.

There was no plan before the meeting to postpone the vote, Mayor Harry Rilling said.

“We didn’t know what we were going to do coming in and I can say that in all honesty,” Rilling said. “Everybody was digesting information from the other night, digesting information from the attorneys last night that we met with for five hours so we wanted to make sure that we have all the information that we can possibly have and do the right thing for the city. So as the night went on, and we went into recess, it was suggested pretty much universally that look, the mosque isn’t going to be built for at least five years so why should we feel so rushed to make a decision now and hopefully.”

“I don’t agree with the logic of settling to get a two-year moratorium, but a two-year moratorium, if that’s recognition that something can be changed, that’s reasonable to go and discuss,” said McCarthy, an outspoken opponent tof the settlement.

Maggio, McCarthy and Bonefant said it was one of the last speeches that really touched them.

Seyal Kadri said he has lived in Norwalk for more than 40 years, and went to school here.

“None of you are aware the level of sacrifice that we have made,” he said, referring to concessions made in the negotiation process.

“We did something that nobody in this room likely would ever do,” Kadri said. “That is put strangers and others before their own children. We sacrificed our classrooms and library, which were intended for our own children, to get to this compromise. Let me tell you that was not an easy decision. It was very, very painful. To think that I am listening to people here who have no clue as to what goes into negotiations – I understand people feel left out but not everybody in a town can go into negotiations. You have elected officials to do that for you. If you disagree with that process then talk to the city about changing their charter and saying that for every decision that is made in the city, I want to vote on it directly.”

McCarthy said that statement hurt him.

“I think the three of us would say we don’t want you to give up your classrooms,” McCarthy said. “We want you to have the application you want in a place where that application will work. Do you want to stay in that place? It should be smaller. If you want the bigger then it should be someplace else. I think that’s reasonable.”

“Why would they want to settle on a plan that is not going to be perfect for something, that they’re going to have forever? So why not look for a better place?” Maggio said. “Why try to put an unacceptable-sized building that’s not going to give you everything you want and need on this property and make sacrifices that, unfortunately, it will directly affect your children.”

“One of the things that gave us a good reason to table tonight was their offer of looking for another place and working with everybody to do that,” Bonenfant said. “… Let’s give them some time. You will work with the city real estate agents, whatever it takes, to find another location, we’ll table this and give you some time to figure it out.”

 

This story will be updated.

NORWALK, Conn. – An offer by Al Madany Islamic Center spokesman Farhan Memon of a two-year building moratorium while the center and the city sought an alternative location to build a mosque has led to  a delay in a suit settlement vote.

Councilamn David McCarthy (R-District E) and others agreed it was the offer of a moratorium while trying to find n alternative site that prompted the vote.

The Norwalk Common Council voted to table for two weeks a vote on the proposed settlement of the suit brought by Al Madany over the Zoning Commission’s 2012 rejection of an application to build a mosque at 127 Fillow St. in West Norwalk. Settlement talks broke down in 2013 but were rekindled after the first of the year. The settlement proposal brought to the Zoning Commission last week for a vote drew a firestorm of criticism from the neighborhood and other Norwalkers, but the commission approved it 4-3 based on the plan conforming to regulations.

The Common Council had to sign off on the deal because it includes a $53,000 payout to Stonegate Condominiums to help pays for a parking lot gate, and a $307,500 payout by the city’s insurance carrier for Al Madany’s legal team’s expenses.

The vote to table followed a 10-minute recess and was unanimous. Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) questioned the length of the delay, but Norwalk Corporation Council Mario Coppola said two weeks was enough time to petition the court for another deadline extension to resume trial preparation.

The vote came as speakers on both side of the divide began talking about finding an alternative site for the proposed mosque, something that has been proposed by many commenters here on NancyOnNorwalk.

An attorney for the Al Madany Islamic Center said his client would search for another site to build a proposed mosque if the Common Council approves the proposed settlement before that body Tuesday night.

The offer was made before a crowd of 200, half of them standing, in the City Hall Community Room, where the Council is pondering whether to accept the Al Madany Islamic Center suit settlement or send the lawyers back to prep for what could become a very expensive trial.

Attorney Chris Bouchoux said if the settlement is approved, Al Madany will work “diligently and forcefully” with the city to find another site. He said that would be part of being a good neighbor, and they would look for two years.

Mosque spokesman Farhan Memon had already urged the Council to pass the settlement, “Then we can talk, maybe look for another site.”

But local attorney Peter Nolin said that would not make sense.

“I’ve never heard of signing the agreement and then looking for a compromise,” he said. “Ask the judge for six months, and look for another site.”

Speakers on both sides of the issue made passionate, thoughtful pleas, praise was spoken to various involved parties and attempts at conciliation were made by mosque advocates, who promised to try to find another site if the settlement was acceptd.

According to the mosque legal team, attorney fees are at $6 million right now – fees that will be waived if the settlement is reached or if Al Madany loses at trial, but will be charged to Norwalk should Al Madany prevail in court. Estimates of the potential cost to Norwalk in a loss have run as high as $15 million.

Lawyers told the Council and the crowd that, if it goes to trial an Al Madany wins, the original mosque proposed in 2012 will be build, rather than the scaled-down version agreed to in the settlement proposal.

Memon said evidence exists that the Zoning Commission used different standards for the mosque application than it has used for churches.

Local lawyer Victor Cavallo said, “If Norwalk knew what was in the consent order, it would be appalled. It will allow Al Madany to rewrite the city code” to suit itself, he said.

But an attorney for the Stonegate Condominium Association said not settling posed an “unacceptable” risk to condo owners and the neighborhood.

Norwalk resident Diane Lauricella siad the vote should be tabled and another site should be found.

However, West Norwalk Isabelle Hargrove, a vocal critic of the mosque plans, said it is not a win-win situation, “it’s lose-lose.”

One woman, Anna Keegan, commented on the tone of some of the speakers.

“This crowd is not representative of Norwalk,” she said. “These people say racist things while not at the microphone.”

Her statement was met with a mix of applause and boos.

 

 

Comments

38 responses to “Norwalk council tables vote on Al Madany settlement after offer to discuss other locations”

  1. Bill

    If I were a Muslim wanting this mosque I would move to where my neighbors like and want me. Why force something that no one else but your minority group wants?

  2. EDR

    $6 million on legal fees if they do not setrue and how much I’d they do? Must be Common Core Math.

  3. Seth

    @Bill Your comments are about as off base and offensive as the young woman who claimed to be an Attorney who spoke at tonight’s settlement meeting in favor of the mosque. Uncalled for! As much as her words were as well. Wayyyyyyy offffff.

  4. Amanda

    @Seth, fully agree re the young lady. Her allegations were offensive and really just downright silly. The neighbors of the proposed congregation are a smart and tolerant group. We want a win for all parties involved.

    My other favorite speaker of the night was the young man citing the increase of property values for churches in Nevada, church of LDS (in TX? does it matter?)and a church in Hamburg, Germany.

  5. Jeff

    Hmm . . . not a the meeting but would tabling the vote imply the votes for the settlement were not there and the city buying time?

  6. Carol

    so glad common sense prevailed. let them look for another site first-before any settlement

  7. Petula Clark Via Dennis DiManis

    When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
    You can always go
    DOWNTOWN…

    DOWNTOWN…Things will be great when you’re
    DOWNTOWN…No finer place for sure
    DOWNTOWN…Everything’s waiting for you

  8. Piberman

    A win win settlement has the Mosque find a larger site suitable for the original plans in a welcoming neighborhood with an equitable splitting of legal fees all for the purpose of putting our best characters forward and welcoming the Mosque to the City. Neither the Mosque nor the City wants to do further legal battle that benefits only the lawyers. Time to move on. For everyone. Even the politicians. Maybe the Mayor could appoint a group of non politicians to assist the Mosque in site selection and other matters so this mean spirited episode can be undone if possible. With real leaders this tragedy would have never occurred.

  9. LWitherspoon

    The time to look for an alternate site or some other compromise that West Norwalk would accept is BEFORE voting on the settlement. I’m shocked that the Mayor would mention the possibility of settling, granting permission to build, and then discussing an alternate site. Let’s hope he’s got a better negotiating strategy when municipal employee union contracts are up for renewal.
    .
    I’m also surprised that the Mayor’s legal team has been holding settlement talks for months and has not explored the possibility of an alternate site.

  10. anon

    Ask the court for a 6 month delay for both parties to look for another site as suggested. It is not unreasonable. Agreeing to a settlement first, Norwalk will lose all negotiating power.

    Mr. Memon himself makes that clear in this comment-“Mosque spokesman Farhan Memon had already urged the Council to pass the settlement, “Then we can talk, MAYBE look for another site.”
    With a settlement in hand first, they MAYBE can do whatever they want, Norwalk will be neutered.

    Rilling got Norwalk to this point by settling, he needs to get us out. Rilling needs to line up his votes and get Norwalk in a solid negotiating position. Rilling, Do Not settle (again).

  11. jeff

    Great reporting NON! Councilman Kimmel, please also refer the community to Nancy on Norwalk!

  12. Bill

    Why anyone would vote for Bruce Kimmel again is beyond me. The guy alienates democrats by claiming to be one then voting with republicans, then the guy runs with republicans and throws them under a bus, now he wants people in west Norwalk to settle but would he settle if it were in Cranbury where he lives? Not a chance. Resign Bruce, no one wants you on the council anymore.

  13. One and Done

    I’m confused. Is Al Madany’s lawyer pro bono or are they charging $6 million?
    .
    $6 million @ $500 per hour as outrageous as that is would be 12,000 hours. Over 2 years that would be three full time people.
    .
    Give me a break. This convinces me both Norwalk and Al Madany are being taken for a ride. Perhaps the state bar should hear about this $6 million of “pro bono” work?

  14. TG

    Hmm. I’ve struggled a bit with my take on all this because as a member of a couple of majority groups, a reflexive defensiveness kicks in when someone charges discrimination, and I find myself looking for ways to prove there isn’t any actual discrimination going on. I’ve learned to let that reaction go, and really look at the evidence and be honest in my thoughts. And there is one thing that continually comes up in the comment threads here and in other places, and that is a language that really seems to create an “us” and “them”- as if these Norwalk Muslim families are not our own neighbors already, living and working and going to school among us. Now that may be the result of the fact that they are now in suit against the city, but it may be that the attitudes prevailed prior to the suit, indeed that they may have contributed to its necessity. But still, I honestly try to think- let’s suppose this was going to be an over large white clapboard church with a tall steeple for 100 families- would there truly be THIS much kickback? Would we make an assumption that the church was to become a destination for other Christians despite there being other options for Christians to worship? Why are we making that assumption? When Mr. Memon says that it is not intended for any but the families in Norwalk, do we distrust that? One argument that keeps being made is essentially that they should find a place where they are welcome. Dies this not sound like the language used for “outsiders”? I’m concerned, Norwalk. I believe that there is a sizeable enough number of people with this attitude and that it has muddied the waters so as to make it difficult to truly look at what are real concerns, specifically, traffic. (Zoning is clearly not an issue anymore; like it or not, Norwalk’s current zoning allows for the structure). But Traffic is a tough one. It is a tricky corner. Yes, it’s residential. These are issues that can’t be ignored and it is very LEGITIMATE reason for Al Madany to continue to look for a place that might not have that problem; however, Mr. Memon righty pointed out that it’s not easy to find open land on which to build in Norwalk. One thing I will say though- I wholeheartedly agree that unless Norwalk is completely happy with this settlement, it should not be agreed to, and certainly not under the incentive of a possible moratorium. It is no longer a negotiation at that point, because only one party has power. I agree with a six month delay and allow the mosque to look yet again if that is being offered as an honest attempt. If nothing is then found, then we need to allow our norwalk Muslims to create their place of worship on land legally owned by them.

  15. It’s just laws.

    Victor Cavallo’s statement that the consent order forced the city to give up its rights and its charter was completely refuted by the attorney for the mosque when he read the actual language of the consent order into the record, which stated the city retains all of its power through its codes and regulations, word for word. Why would Cavallo blatantly lie about the consent order in front of a crowd, except to inflame passions? It is frightening to know he is on our Planning Commission.
    ;
    The irony is it is the Planning Commission that is partly responsible for our broken code, which a mosque representative referred to last night by saying the Planning and Zoning staff advised the mosque on the original application, by helping the mosque follow the code exactly for height, size, lot coverage, and parking requirement. It is our code that is the problem, not the mosque which just followed it and then still got turned down. The code needs to be overhauled.
    ;
    There is also a dangerous precedent that will be sent if the city now gets into the business of using taxpayer dollars to relocate various uses out of areas where they are allowed by law. What’s to stop any applicant from buying a property and holding the city hostage to demand financial help to relocate? Once that genie is out of the bottle, it will be impossible to put back, as a case can be made in court that once the city does this for the mosque, it has to do the same thing for any controversial application. The speakers last night who said the mosque can simply be relocated to another neighborhood assume that the mosque will not find a similar fate no matter where they go In Norwalk.
    ;
    This idea that churches and synagogues are totally acceptable in AAA zones but mosques belong downtown in more “acceptable” areas is blatantly discriminatory, and insults everyone on both sides of this issue. How does the huge 1,000 seat St. Matthews with 2,400 families as members in the same neighborhood and same AAA residence zone get away with a free card from the city and the neighborhood for multiple expansions over the years, but now 100-family mosques are not “appropriate” in West Norwalk as speaker after speaker repeated last night?

  16. Jen

    Downtown has soooo many empty buildings. There is that huge one across from the Radio Shack Auto Zone strip mall. There is plenty of parking and good access to 95 and Route 7. OR what about that empty building where World Gym was. Or that eyesore of a burned out building. Why is that still in its present condition? It is a disgrace. I don’t know what direction Mecca is but something down there should work. If not downtown then some other area, maybe the Y building or along West Ave. Come on Norwalk, step up and help these
    people find a suitable site to build their dream Mosque.

  17. Bruce Kimmel

    jeff: You’re are absolutely right. A fatigue induced error. Won’t happen again.

  18. Been there done that

    Six Million in legal fees, that sounds like Shipman & Goodwin pricing!

  19. Scott

    It’s Just Laws- are you suggesting that anyone on that neighborhood on a similar sized parcel would be permitted to build an eighty foot tower (or is it sixty since it’s been reported both ways in comments) on their property? There should NEVER, I repeat, NEVER be special rules for special groups or organizations. No one is more important than anyone else. No line jumpers,no breakdown lane drivers during rush hour. You get the same rights as everyone else. If you want to compare yourself to St. Matthew’s then purchase that size property not at an intetsection of two main arteries. RLUIPA is a travesty. If i knew who penned it I would be sure to boycott them right along with the judges in the New London eminent domain case. Property owners have no power to protect their investment.

  20. It’s just laws.

    Scott, the entire structure including the minaret followed our code, since church steeples and minarets both are allowed in this residence zone, as they are everywhere else in America. A private homeowner couldn’t build a steeple or minaret, but they could have built a single family home
    the same size as the mosque because Norwalk is unique and has no FAR restrictions on size of buildings in residence zones, a legacy of Republican control of the city for decades that used property rights to dismantle our regulations.
    ;
    Now Republicans are screaming the loudest as they are hoisted on their own petard, as the mosque followed all of our codes. I also don’t understand how the minaret is even an issue as there are multiple high tension towers 500 feet down the road that dwarf the skinny minaret in height and bulk, just feet behind homes on Stepping Stone lane and crossing Fillow into Oak Hills Park. It’s as absurd as the local condo residents from Fillow Ridge almost across the street from the mosque who live in sprawling buildings 15 times the size as the mosque, but get up in a crowded room with a straight face and say the mosque is too big for the neighborhood and out of context. Just look at an aerial photo of the area to see the comparison of scale for yourself. And we are asked to believe discrimination has nothing to do with it. The hypocrisy on display is astounding.

  21. Dennis DiManis

    “Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) mentioned …the “five and a half hour long” council executive session Monday – in which members saw the actual language of the settlement for the first time.”

    Maybe I’m missing something here, but it seems to me that the council should have see the settlement when it was first drafted.

  22. Scott

    It’s Just Laws – as I’ve stated in a previous post what’s to prevent someone from becoming theie own religion turning their home into theie church. From the little research I did online it’s not tht difficult. Then what would stop people. It would be anarchy. RLUIPA is too vague and far reaching. We need zoning regulations that protect our freedom but at the same time protect our neighbors. And by the way I’m not a registered republican. I’m actually a registered democrat (still from my idylic youth) but am more of a libertarin

  23. Dennis DiManis

    “We did something that nobody in this room likely would ever do,” Kadri said. “That is put strangers and others before their own children…”

    I don’t understand what he’s referring to.

  24. West Norwalk Neighbor

    Why wasn’t the director of Planning and Zoning, Mike Greene, or at least the assistant director at the Council Meeting? They sent a low-level flunkie, because they can’t be bothered. Because he doesn’t live in Norwalk, he is just sitting back laughing at the chaos he’s created in Norwalk, all the while pulling in a six-figure salary and rich retirement benefits. Virtually everyone agrees that our zoning code is terrible and needs to be re-written (except for all the third-rate Norwalk lawyers who make money selling the city out by manipulating them) and the Zoning Director is too above attending one of the most important meetings involving Zoning that has ever occurred in Norwalk? P&Z needs to be cleaned out from top to bottom and we need to start over on our zoning regulations, so this type of situation never happens again! The Council and the Mayor should be really annoyed that Greene wasn’t at the meeting. While the current corrupt Zoning Commission won’t take any action regarding the P&Z director, the Council can certainly cut the department’s budget in half for next year and send a clear message that we’ve had enough of bad planning and zoning.

  25. It’s just laws.

    Dennis, the context of that comment was that the mosque gave up classrooms and a library designed for their children in the original application that met all codes, and in the settlement compromise they have all that up for parking that was beyond what the city code required, something no other religious institution was ever asked to do in Norwalk when they wanted to build or expand. The city staff helped the mosque design a building that met the codes, then that design was turned down by the zoning commission saying it was too big. The fault of all this lies with our broken codes and the staff and commission members who stubbornly protect it. The mosque got caught in an ugly trap where our own codes encouraged them to buy a property they could fit the mosque on at the size they wanted, then they were forced to give up more than any other religious institution ever has to satisfy conditions of denial that were vague at best, and not supported by facts. That was the basis of their lawsuit, yet in good faith they gave up half their community building to build 50% more parking, way beyond what the code required, to satisfy the commission and the neighbors, a fact lost in all the vitriol and uninformed opinions on display in the public hearings and online comments.

  26. Piberman

    L Witherspoon is right on target. Why is the Mayor “leading from behind” only now raising the issue of finding an alternative sight ? When 3 BOE members made bizarre claims of discrimination the Mayor lost no time giving the unproven claims credence by stating he would talk to each BOE member. Thereby protecting his “base” who in turn largely ignored the outrage as an embarrassment. Mayor Rilling needs become the pro-active Mayor of all of Norwalk. That’s what the job calls fall. Not hiding until the last moment.

  27. Dennis DiManis

    The council can certainly do all kinds of stuff, none of which they actually seem to do. Now they’re stuck between the rock & harder place: approve the settlement and get voted out vs. reject it and roll the dice on a trial. Why can’t the mayor and council obtain high-power pro bono legal help like the Muslims got?

  28. West Norwalk Neighbor

    Yes, Rilling should follow the example of Moccia. Oh yeah, his slogan was “the reactive mayor”…

  29. anon

    Ask the court for a 6 month delay for both parties to look for another site as suggested. It is not unreasonable. Agreeing to a settlement that is irrevocably favorable to Al Maldny before trying to find a larger, more appropriate site is insanity.

    Rilling got Norwalk to this point by settling so quickly, and he needs to get us out. Rilling needs to line up his votes, Democrat and Republican.

    Rilling, Do Not settle (again).

  30. Amanda

    This is obviously a very passionate subject. What most folks are forgetting is that Mayor Rilling can not comment due to the fact that it’s pending litigation. Anything you say can be used in court against you…hence his very generic comments on the suit. The city was also ordered by a federal court into settlement after RLUIPA was invoked. We don’t know what has or hasn’t been said behind closed doors. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this over the last couple weeks and the direct impact it has it on me and my neighbors. I admit I have moments where I flicker from the emotional to the business side of the issue. I really feel for Al Madany as they were played by our dated P&Z regulations. Farhan Memom seems like a kind and reasonable man and he received applause from both sides of the issue last night. Al Madany should not have to scale down on the mosque they have long desired, and the neighborhood shouldn’t have to feel like we’re getting a settlement jammed in on a structure we feel is too large for the neighborhood. That’s lose/lose for everyone. This has never been about religion. I know it feels like that, but it’s not. The people of Southport were out fighting against a Walgreens in their neighborhood last night. West Norwalk would be doing the same thing, regardless if the structure was religious or not. I’m not privy to all the facts surrounding their building being held to a different standard than others in the area, and I am sorry if that’s the case. My husband and I are relatively new to this area and have inherited this issue ourselves. In the end, what it comes down to is land. I think that some good headway was made last night by both Al Madany and the city in what, I hope, will be productive talks to finding a piece of property the community deserves so they can have the mosque they deserve.

  31. Scott

    I read this article late last night and for just a short moment my heart was lifted and I thought the weight of unreasonableness and injustice had been removed and fairness had been restored. But it was just that, a moment. Then I realized that it was all just a tease. An appeasement of hope to get the council to agree to the settlement. A flim-flam by a used car salesman to get you to by a junker. If there was truly any sincerity to relocating to a more feasible property then the word maybe would not have been uttered. Maybe is what you say to your child to get them to stop pestering. So I guess we’re just like children because that ray of hope shut us up for now.

  32. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    Cutting through all this tower of Babel, perhaps it is best after all for Al Madany to relocate for their own peace of mind. One can only imagine that if they were able to build on the property they now own, they would face endless hostility from the neighbors and the kind of unwelcome notices that must be painted over.

    It’s painful to realize that such things are possible in Norwalk, but judging from the tortured rationalizations that have been dredged up over this issue, it’s a sad conclusion.

  33. Suzanne

    There are three office buildings, three stories high with parking that look largely unused or abandoned on the north side of Richards Avenue between the Post Road and NCC. Mr. Madri referenced “open land”. Is that a necessity for a mosque to be built (not so throughout history?)
    *
    And, as many have said, there are some very large buildings downtown, centrally located, easy to access with their own parking. The existing buildings would have to be destroyed but, given their condition, would that be so bad?
    *
    The Episcopal Church apparently has some renters ensconced in their sanctuary but it is easily accessed off Route 7 and Route 95 adjacent;couldn’t this be a possibility for renovation (as has been true throughout history as well, i.e., mosque to Christian churches and Christian churches to mosques?)
    *
    I disagree with signing any “settlement” that does not include the caveat that alternative property will be sought “in good faith” for the next whatever amount of time. Anything else is giving away the store leaving Al-Madany with absolutely no incentive to seek a different site.
    *
    I can’t imagine a judge turning down the opportunity for a win-win with all of the attorneys present seeking a compromise for a different location, as I believe Mr. Nolin described. Al-Madany would have their mosque including the valued classrooms and Fillow Street would be left with a more appropriate building.
    *
    Emphasizing the perceived racism, and I am sure it exists, belies the fact that many, many more people have not been inclined toward an “us and them” scenario. Rather it has been, I guess it must be emphasized again, a concern about the size of the building on a small plot of land exiting out to a dangerous intersection.
    *
    In fact, I think those that believe racism is ruling the day would find that many more people would welcome Al-Madany into their community if the plot of land were bigger and could accommodate religious use. It just doesn’t. That does not mean that we are we and they are “them.”
    *
    I believe many more want Al-Madany to have a place to worship – just in a spot that is safe and fits with the neighborhood. The same would be true if it were a school, an office building or any other religious house of worship, the white steeple causing no less push back.
    *
    There are those who will always be afraid of the other. Who will always lump people together and think of them as “them” not we. In the United States, there has a history of this institutionalized thinking. But it is not everyone and I do not believe it is even most in Norwalk.

  34. Dennis DiManis

    If the Al Madany cared about hostile responses, they never would have proposed that size complex on that piece of land to begin with.
    The suit accuses Norwalk of illegal and improper conduct. In such an instance, it is The Mayor’s job to represent the city, not to be a referee.

  35. Piberman

    Now that the fireworks are subsiding why not call off the litigation and jointly proceed to find a larger more suitable location for the original sized Mosque with an equitable settlement of legal outlays. Long past time to have conversations between our Mayor and the Mosque congregation. Here’s a chance for the City to do much better.

  36. Bill

    If you need a mosque to pray at 5 times a day, but can’t find one close by, maybe stop praying 5 times a day. No other religion demands people pray 5 times a day.

  37. John Hamlin

    Finding a better location for the mosque isn’t a bad idea — why wasn’t it proposed and pursued seriously by the last administration or the neighborhood long before this — years and years ago? Now, when it’s clear that the case is a loser and the necessary settlement means the mosque will be built — after all the expenditure of time and money — people start talking about finding another location. But of course no one happens to have another location handy within the City limits. And with our zoning regs as they are, will the City continue to find new locations for objectionable but compliant proposals every time there’s an outcry? No one has proposed as a prerequisite to settlement that the zoning regs and the planning and zoning process be fixed before any settlement deal is struck — or made any commitment to make that happen — so regardless of how this turns out, all we have to look forward to is more of the same in the future. Maybe the zoning regs are really fine with everyone and it’s just the mosque that is objectionable.

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