By Nancy Guenther Chapman
NORWALK, Conn. – A Hartford lawyer hired by the city of Norwalk to handle a federal lawsuit concerning a controversial plan to build a mosque in a Norwalk neighborhood has sent an email to Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan and others complaining that his emails are not being returned and asserting that a settlement has been worked out.
The email from Thomas R. Gerarde of Howd and Ludorf LLC was sent to the Common Council, Mayor Richard Moccia, Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan, members of the legal department and Adam Blank of the Zoning Commission.
Here is the text of the email:
I have not been contacted by replacement counsel and am still counsel of record. Kevin Tighe emailed me today that he is not going to be representing the city.
I was told by CIRMA (Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency) today that your position is the city does not have a settlement to discuss and to which it should either provide its consent or withhold its consent. I’m not sure where the communication has broken down, but this is not factually correct.
The Plaintiff, Al Madany Islamic Center, has agreed to the terms set forth below, and CIRMA has agreed to pay the $100,000 cash piece, so it is up to the city to meet and vote to consent of not to consent to the settlement. As the city and the Zoning Commission are my clients, I would like to be sure they are apprised of all settlement opportunities, and I am concerned that our communication lines have broken down as you have not responded to my last three emails.
The settlement terms set forth below are still agreed to by the plaintiff, and CIRMA has still agreed to pay the $100,000 settlement monies. Therefore, it is necessary for that to be communicated to the city, and addressed at a Common Council meeting for a vote to consent or not to consent.
Please have this matter added to the agenda of the Common Council meeting for Tuesday Jan. 22, 2013. If you would like me to attend that meeting to answer any questions I will do so, please let me know.
As this information is critical to the city and the Zoning Commission, I have copied the mayor and a number of the public officials, to be sure the settlement opportunity is communicated and understood. I am available to answer any questions you or anyone who gets a copy of this email may have, and my contact information is below.
As you know, the Zoning Commission met on Nov. 29, 2012 and passed the resolution set forth in paragraph 2 below. A final meeting with the zoning commission should be scheduled if the city votes to consent to the settlement. The Common Council vote is limited to the monetary part of the settlement so the motion should be a motion to consent to the $100,000 settlement agreed to by CIRMA in the case of Al Madany Islamic Center v. City of Norwalk et al., and either it passes or does not pass.
Here are the terms, and the referenced attachment is attached to this email as well.:
1. Defendants agree to pay Plaintiff $100,000 as full compensation for all claims for damages, costs and attorneys’ fees.
2. Defendants agree to consent to the entry of a Consent Judgment and other orders that will direct permits to be issued to allow construction of the Mosque and accessory building on Plaintiffs property on Fillow Street, as evidenced by the vote by the Norwalk Zoning Commission, 6-1 in favor, on the following:
“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.” which vote was taken on November 29, 2012.
3. Plaintiff agrees to the parking plan outlined in the “non-binding term sheet” as follows:
The Parties agree that Al Madany’s planned 89 parking spaces are sufficient under the applicable zoning regulations for gatherings of up to 435 people on the Property. In the event that Al Madany expects the attendance of more than 435 people on the Property, Al Madany agrees to follow a parking plan, which shall be described in the Settlement Agreement to be executed by the Parties, to satisfy the need for additional parking. However, nothing herein shall be construed as a representation or admission by Al Madany that it plans to use the Property for events in which an excess of 435 people will be on the premises. Instead, Al Madany reaffirms that its congregation size is such that it does not foresee any events in which the attendance would exceed 435 individuals, and further reaffirms that no concurrent worship programming will be held in the two buildings. Al Madany agrees to provide a parking plan proposal solely as reassurance to Defendants and to provide for a rare and unforeseen event in the future.
If an event is held at the Property at which more than 89 cars are anticipated, attendees will be instructed to park their cars at the Maritime Garage municipal parking facility in Norwalk or another municipal parking facility. Al Manday will then run shuttle buses, at its own expense, between the parking location and the Property. At the conclusion of each event, Al Madany will return attendees to the parking location by shuttle bus. Al Madany may also, from time to time, enter into an agreement with other houses of worship and/or private parties to use excess parking space that they may have available. Al Madany has reaffirmed that, if the unlikely occurs and they have an event where more than 89 cars are expected, they will implement the off site parking plan and shuttle attendees to the mosque.
4. Plaintiff has no objection to “ no parking” signs being installed, and will inform the congregation as to the parking plan and that there is no parking on Fillow street.
5. Plaintiff will hire an officer for traffic control during its services for its 2 high holy days, Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.
6. Plaintiff does not expect full capacity for any of its services, even on high holy days, and will not automatically hold 2 services. Plaintiff will hold additional services if it expects attendance to exceed seating capacity.
7. Plaintiff will agree to the following additional screening: [need specifics—plaintiff is open to the large arborvitae or similar vegetation discussed during the zoning meetings].
8. Plaintiff submits that restricting the use of the minaret violates its free exercise rights, and notes that the bells ring at the Christian churches each day. Plaintiff has no intent to use any kind of amplified sound in the minaret or to have any human in the minaret shouting with an unamplified voice.
9. Plaintiff agrees to a coordinated meeting with neighbors to discuss any concerns they may have.
10. Upon the entry of a Consent Judgment, Plaintiff agrees to write the Dept. of Justice a letter indicating that this matter has been resolved.
11. Plaintiff affirms its agreement to abide by all of the conditions already set forth in the “ non-binding term sheet” ( attached).
12. The agreement between defendants and plaintiff will be made part of a Consent Judgment by the U.S. District Court, which will retain jurisdiction as outlined in the “ non-binding term sheet” (attached).
Thomas R. Gerarde
HOWD & LUDORF, LLC
65 Wethersfield Avenue
Hartford, CT 06114-1121