Norwalk council takes in ‘complicated’ mega-information in proposed settlement of mosque lawsuit

Norwalk Common Council members
Norwalk Common Council members, from left, Travis Simms (D-District B), David Watts (D-District A) and David McCarthy (R-District E) listen to the public at last week’s Zoning Commission public hearing on the proposed settlement with the Al Madany Islamic Center.

NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk Common Council members will face the public Tuesday night armed with four hours of information they cannot share about the proposed settlement with the Al Madany Islamic Center.

Tuesday’s council meeting, which may feature a vote on the proposed settlement, will take place in the City Hall community room which can accommodate more people than the Common Council chambers.

Council members attended an executive session Monday night which went on for more than four hours.

The meeting began at 7:30 p.m. Members of the Democratic caucus left at 11:30 p.m. Most of the Republican caucus stayed behind.

None of the exiting Democrats would say a word about the proceedings but Council President Doug Hempstead (R-At Large) was a bit more forthcoming earlier when he came out for a break.

“The back and forth has been kind of interesting,” Hempstead said.

No one had said what they were thinking of the proposed settlement and the information they were given about the lawsuit, he said.

“I think people are going to take home what they heard tonight and take that into consideration,” Hempstead said. “As Bruce (Kimmel) said, ‘It’s complicated.’”

The executive session was attended by Attorney Marci Hamilton, Corporation Counsel Mario Coppola and former Corporation Counsel Robert Maslan, all of whom left just before the Democratic exodus.

Discussion and potential action on the settlement is on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting.  Word is that attendees of the council meeting will be given more than three minutes to speak to the council, provided things don’t get out of hand. The community room is expected to handle the turnout.


9 responses to “Norwalk council takes in ‘complicated’ mega-information in proposed settlement of mosque lawsuit”

  1. anon

    One might ask, what good is a traffic study commissioned by Al Madany which deliberately omits information that ignores the obvious? Al Madany says the mosque is for 100 local families. Really?

    Of the 16 mosques in Connecticut, the Norwalk mosque is the largest in the entire State.

    Stamford’s mosque has more families, is 3 times smaller and has direct access to I95.

    Greenwich’s synagogue that Norwalk’s corporate counsel, Mario Coppola, is litigating against because of size and use concerns has 150 families and is 2 times smaller.

    Here in Norwalk, St Matthews church has 38,576sf of usable space for 2,400 families-that’s 16 square feet per family. Al Madany has 21,800sf of usable space for 100 families-that’s 218 square feet per family. To put it in perspective, 16 square feet is the size of a coat closet; 218 square feet is the size of a decent studio apartment in New York City.

    Does Al Madany expect this to be a regional destination? Do they expect the mosque to triple in size, or get as large as St Matthews? Unless the Al Madany explains the disconnect between the sheer size of their mosque vs. their membership and planning, the traffic study appears to be more akin to propaganda than truth. An honest answer to this question does not seem too much to ask from a religious institution. And, who is liable if the Al Madany traffic study proves to be totally inadequate, based on flawed assumptions?

    And, another million dollar question (literally), why did Mayor Rilling’s choice for corporate counsel, MARIO COPPOLA, ESQ. ask questions about size and anticipated demand in Greenwich, also facing RUILPA, but not in Norwalk? “(MARIO)COPPOLA urged the (Greenwich) commission to approve the project only if a number of conditions were levied against it: a minimum 40 percent reduction in size, a new driveway configuration, limited use of a social hall and WRITTEN REPORTS ON ANTICIPATED DEMAND…”http://www.greenwichtime.com/local/article/Synagogue-proposal-draws-ire-5289369.php

  2. Jeff

    Complicated? It appears that there’s more to this than what the public knows. What am I missing? Is more info being withheld form the public? I would hope all terms of the settlement are made public prior to the vote tonight.

  3. EveT

    @Jeff, apparently you are not familiar with the rules for executive session.

  4. Audrey Cozzartin

    My husband and I just returned from a short vacation to my hometown of Ithaca, NY, to the news that the mosque project is going forward. Talk about a “study in contrasts” where we were “glamping” (glamorous camping) in a town known for leaving the earth better than we found it, with smart development, and small impact building and living. Our neighborhood, Kendall Court, is right outside the property with the adorable little red house where the mosque will go. We are seriously considering moving to Ithaca where THEY GET IT.

  5. Jeff

    @Eve. The people are the real executives. Thanks for the education.

  6. One and Done

    What a waste of humanity.
    The only question left is how many from the Republican side can Harry con into taking ownership of this issue from him. From the maneuvers so far, it is pretty clear he doesn’t want it and doesn’t think he owns it.
    I see a mosque relocation task force in the city’s near future, composed of political retreads and bobbleheads, to fool more citizens into thinking things are actually getting done.

  7. EveT

    @anon, the reason MARIO COPPOLA, ESQ. asked questions about size and anticipated demand in Greenwich, also facing RLUIPA, but not in Norwalk, is because the town of Greenwich has coherent zoning regulations that value size ratios and neighborhood character. Greenwich has strong precedent for holding applicants, including religious organizations, to those standards.
    Norwalk’s strong history of letting just about anyone build just about anything means that if those kinds of questions are asked of one applicant when, obviously, they haven’t been asked of others, it constitutes disparate treatment, ergo discrimination.

  8. One and Done

    Eve. Where has Norwalk allowed a building of this size on a lot this size in AAA? Where? Ans: You can’t find it, because it doesn’t exist. Try again.

  9. anon

    (Nancy Norwalk)Commenter: “I heard Dave McCarthy state that Ms. Hamilton told him that Al Madany failed to present any evidence of discrimination, and that the case was one of the most winnable she had ever seen.”

    Hamilton: “It has been my opinion from the beginning, along with the majority of the residents there on Thursday night, that the project is too big for such a small lot, and, therefore, the case has been winnable. But THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES in RLUIPA cases….”

    Why did MARIO COPPOLA, ESQ. ask questions about size and anticipated demand in Greenwich, also facing RLUIPA, but not in Norwalk?

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