New mosque settlement proposal details leaked

Two children sit in the audience of last week's Norwalk Common Council meeting.
Two children sit in the audience of last week’s Norwalk Common Council meeting.

NORWALK, Conn. – Word of a proposed settlement that would keep the Al Madany Islamic Center from building a mosque at 127 Fillow St. in West Norwalk leaked out of a Wednesday night executive session meeting of the Common Council.

According to the leak, the city would buy the property from Al Madany for market price — $585,000. The city’s insurance carrier would pay the previously agreed upon $307,500 to compensate the Al Madany legal team for expenses, and there would be an additional cash incentive, possibly $1 million. In return, Al Madany’s suit would be dropped.

Late attempts to contact Mayor Harry Rilling and Council Majority Leader Jerry Petrini by email were unsuccessful.




31 responses to “New mosque settlement proposal details leaked”

  1. John Hamlin

    That would be a bad precedent.

  2. NorwalkVoter

    The question is who is the unscrupulous person who leaked information that may or may not be true.
    And why would Nancy on Norwalk print this without confirmation from two reliable sources?
    Disturbing development.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Norwalk Voter

      “why would Nancy on Norwalk print this without confirmation from two reliable sources?”

      We wouldn’t.

  3. matt scully

    Story is continuing to develop..In order to curb traffic and make everyone happy the city is now going to sell 127 Fillow to BJ’s Wholesale for less than market value and in aisle 3 there will be a golfing range…

  4. DeeeeMoooo

    At least the council and zoning commission are moving quickly with zoning regulation changes to ensure this doesn’t happen again /sarcasm

  5. One and Done.

    Look what’s shakin’ on Shakedown St.

  6. Piberman

    Clearly not the end game. The Mosque congregation would have to secure another property and then go through the zoning permit application all over again with lawyers and consultants with no certain approval in advance. Presumably there would be better understanding of the City’s requirements the second time. And the Mosque community would follow the usual procedure of meeting with various community groups in the area they intend to build before forwarding their application.

  7. Jen

    What is the $1 million for? What is the city going to do with the property?

  8. LWitherspoon

    Who pays the “additional cash incentive” of $1MM? Is it the City or the insurance carrier? Would Al Madany seek another site in Norwalk?

  9. Suzanne

    I am not sure why this would be a “bad precedent” but I do find it disturbing that someone would leak settlement terms before the private discussions were made public. The terms described are not so terrible, especially when one considers past “settlements” with existing facilities, witness the “forgiveness” of loans of a sizable amount to the Aquarium, for example, but I would also find this kind of “settlement” disturbing if Zoning regulation changes were not enacted to remedy what led to this problem for the future.

  10. Norwalk4Life

    Kudos to the common council for listening to the West Norwalk residents and coming to a proposed settlement. The first order of business after this is all said and done is to quickly fix our Zoning laws. If a group decides to build according to regulations they should be allowed to build. And in this case if the size was deemed egregious by the residents then the size should be limited by zoning code. If Norwalk residents are upset with the settlement, then they should take it up with the residents of West Norwalk who did not want the building at any cost.

  11. Aga Khan

    This is by no way a done deal. Sounds like the CC is succumbing to the bigotry of the West Norwalk crowd. The notion that a pitch forked mob can scream loudly enough to prevent their fellow citizens from establishing a house of worship is disturbing. The city is subsidizing discrimination. Shame on us all.

  12. Gordon Tully

    Exactly what is wrong with the present zoning ordinance regarding religious institutions in residential zones? What would you propose changing? Is the purpose to prevent this particular building from being built on this particular lot? From building religious institutions in residential zones?
    The devil is in the details. If you want changes, go talk with Mike Greene about the implications for the rest of the city, and the limits imposed by state law. I think you will find that the ordinance is not broken with respect to religious institutions in residential zones.
    As I previously noted, if you change the percentage of lot coverage, the same building could be built and create the same traffic problems, just in a different place.

  13. Jeff

    This would be a good time for a realtor to gain favorable marketing and offer to market/sell the property pro bono. As ugly as this has been, I believe the mayor has scored huge points by taking notice from the public and abandoning the prior settlement discussions. . . I also think Nancy on Norwalk deserves tremendous credit for excellent nonpartisan reporting on the mosque . . . we are fortunate to have such consummate professionals cover our city.

  14. DeeeeMoooo

    @Norwalk4Life: “If a group decides to build according to regulations they should be allowed to build.”
    And yet in this case (if the leak is accurate) the City has decided to use cash payments and the extraordinary measure of buying a residential home to stop AMIC from building a mosque that was carefully designed to conform with all regulations. The precedent should be troubling to everyone: the City’s cash and resources are being deployed against the City’s own laws and regulations. The snake is eating its tail.
    @Aga Khan is right: Shame on us all.

  15. Debora

    @Gordon Tully,
    I believe another commenter here has made reference to fixing the FAR (floor area ratio) portion of the zoning regs. We may want to start there.
    It wouldn’t be a bad idea to look at the process under which zoning operates. I’ve said before, we are punitive with regard to sidewalk maintenance and chicken coops (and parking set-backs), but ignore studies and masterplans, and legally binding agreements when the project is substantially larger than a private home.
    If the public is not getting input into zoning decisions and they don’t understand the results, then clearly the system can be better than it is.

  16. Non Partisan Voter

    @Tully – first of all, I would get advice from someone who actually understands land use and zoning laws – that would preclude anyone who works for the City of Norwalk or that is on the planning and zoning commissions. Because Norwalk’s neighborhood’s are so densely developed already, maybe we shouldn’t allow new religious institutions in neighbhorhoods at all. How many parcels are there in Norwalk neighborhoods that are two acres or more? Not many.

  17. Jeff

    There is no shame here but practical consideration and cost savings for taxpayers. If the mosques was so confident in winning they would have pressed on, yet they even realized the case was weak to marginal at best. . . this looks like a big win for them and a huge wake up call for the city to shore up there ordinances and prevent other groups from exploiting RLUIPA to the detriment of sound safety and traffic standards on our residential areas .

  18. Jeff

    There is no shame here but practical consideration and cost savings for taxpayers. If the mosque was so confident in winning they would have pressed on, yet they even realized the case was weak to marginal at best. . . this looks like a big win for them and a huge wake up call for the city to shore up their ordinances and prevent other groups from exploiting RLUIPA to the detriment of sound safety and traffic standards on our residential areas

  19. Aga Khan

    @Jeff don’t kid yourself that the mosque thinks their case is weak. In any litigation there are practical considerations of time and what one expects to get at the end of the day. If a mosque can be built quicker and more cheaply by settling with the city that is what Ferhan Memon and the mosque board are going to do. What you and other Norwalk should be grateful for is that they are decent people and are not looking to string Norwalk out for what the city has put them through. They just want to be fairly compensated for what they have spent or are giving up.

  20. Bill

    If I tried to build a mosque in Saudi Arabia, would they pay me a million dollars not to build it…I think not.

  21. Aha Khan

    @Bill. This is not Saudi Arabia that’s why I live here. And because I do I expect that I will have equal rights regardless of my faith. The fact that the mosque application was treated differently is something that Norwalk should be ashamed of. It is cheaper and politically expedient to make a deal.

  22. Suzanne

    Aga Khan, Might I remind you that Al Madany asked to be treated differently when they invoked RLUIPA? They used religion to inform their every move after the Zoning Commission told them the size and scope, not their religion, was a problem.

  23. Jen

    I agree with the statement that zoning in Norwalk should be changed to no more churches, museums, libraries, etc. in residential areas. The only land left is wetlands. I have an acre of that and can’t even give it away without spending thousands on surveys. Time for a major zoning change.

  24. Scott

    So just where do 100 families get that kind of money?

  25. DeeeeMoooo

    @Suzanne: “Aga Khan, Might I remind you that Al Madany asked to be treated differently when they invoked RLUIPA”

    You’re oversimplifying: Al Madany worked closely with city staff over several years to design a building that complied with regulations and laws; commissioned not one but two traffic surveys; reached out to neighbors (see past comment from Galen Wells); and yet they were still denied. And don’t forget the inflammatory flyer and other comments here and in the grapevine.

    In the meantime, churches around the city are and have been expanding with little comment and, in some cases, requirements have been waived (St. George).

    You’ve got to take a moment to look at this from the perspective of the mosque folks who did everything reasonably possible plan the building of their mosque: the rejection of their plans must have been baffling…

  26. DeeeeMoooo

    @Scott: I don’t know what you are implying, but something about your question bothers me. Did you ask the same question about St. George’s plans for expansion? I imagine there were no shortage of mosque families willing to make sacrifices to build a mosque that will serve them and their children for generations to come.

    The mosque folks have been planning this for many years now, so it’s easy to see how they might have saved more than enough for this project. For example, if 100 families in Norwalk tithed (a common practice in Christian churches) for just one year at the average household income for Norwalk, they’d have enough after 12 months to have purchased the property, and then some. Tithe for a few more years and you’ve got enough money for the whole project.

    So what’s the mystery?

  27. Scott

    I apologize for the implication. I was referring to comment of being compensated for what the families had spent and the leaked amount of $1,000,000 compensation. I have to pay a mortgage for 25 years on $180,000 to be able to own my home and drive a 15 year old truck to live im Norwalk even though I’m one of those overpaid municipal employees

  28. Suzanne

    DeeeeMoooo, Got it. I think this shows just how deficient our Zoning regulations are if the assistance ended up with this model for such a small amount of acreage.
    The other religious communities were allowed to increase the size of their facilities because they had sufficient land.
    Whatever those traffic studies said, they had to be deficient. That intersection where the driveway would exit is very dangerous. The mitigation shared on NON would be insufficient unless traffic singles were installed.
    Galen Wells said that Al Madany came to them what, two to three years ago, and introduced a model to a very small group of West Norwalk citizens. The West Norwalk Association does NOT represent the majority or even a minority of residents in the area AT ALL. (This is not Al Madany’s fault of course to be unaware of this.) In fact, when past residents have requested their assistance regarding other developments, they have always shown their support for the developers, thus undermining the charming “rural area” they say they support.
    Inflammatory comments come from people who are ignorant of the humanity of others. I not only do not condone them, I condemn them. Fear of the other does strange things: I would imagine that any group classified as “other” would receive similar treatment. It is not right and I am sorry it must be endured by anyone. However, I cannot believe, unfortunately, that Al Madany was in anyway surprised.
    What I don’t get is the Zoning process: the public comments are the last to be heard. Permits are issued for just about everything before neighbors (within 100 feet) are allowed to comment on any development. This policy is what makes situations like that of Al Madany an inevitable occurrence. That what they created was legal is unfortunate – As I have said before, it does not make it right.

  29. Suzanne

    Point of clarification: those neighbors within 100 feet of the planned development are contacted ahead of time by mail (at least that is the way it was handled in my neck of the woods.) Outside of that radius, you are out of luck. I should have said this and not included the entire community as not allowed for public comment, which of course they are. I am certain we have NON to thank for all of us knowing the details in advance of the public meeting.

  30. TheNorwalker

    I think no matter if the Mosque sues the City, the answer has to be no because of the location and traffic. I often pass that intersection on my daily commute (when I-95 goes crazy) and with 3 streets, one with a blind curve coming off a hill makes this area dangerous. Add congestion to the mix and this intersection could be very dangerous.

    Also how many times a day will there be services in this building?

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