Norwalk mosque settlement opposition emails number 100+

Norwalk Fire Station 041012 168NORWALK, Conn. – Too many cars, too many people, too much garbage – these are some of the objections expressed in the effort to “Keep Fillow Street Residential,” as an email campaign to City Hall in opposition to the proposed settlement to the lawsuit filed by the Al Madany Islamic Center against Norwalk continues.

“Up to now I have received 119 emails opposing the mosque, almost all of them using the template language. Some from people not living in Norwalk,” Mayor Harry Rilling said Monday.

A groundswell of opposition to the proposal to put a house in Farm Creek last year generated more than 300 emails to the Planning and Zoning Department.

The email campaign includes these comments:

• “If Harry has the stupidity to approve this settlement and pay over $300,00.00 to this group he will no longer be mayor or even dog catcher in the next election. This also applies to the zoning board as well. I’ve grown weary of fools,” Charles E Jones Jr. wrote. “We don’t need that in this neighborhood! We don’t need to give them over $300,000 when the economy, thanks to Obama is so far in the toilet that no one can fix it. If old Harry dares to raise our taxes after allowing this debacle he may find himself on the receiving end of a recall vote to remove him from office! Remember – our votes are our best weapons against this waste! We’ll be watching! And voting!”

• “Building any building is BAD,” Mary H. wrote. “Too many cars, too many people. Too much garbage. More people will be littering and not taking care of the streets. No Parking spots. Not safe for young kids walking or biking to and from school. This is not the best area to have this! Keep Fillow Street residential!!!”

• “Please leave our neighborhood alone,” reads an email written by someone calling his or herself Fillow Street fan. “We like the quiet. Building something so massive will disrupt traffic and cause extreme hazards for bike riders, joggers and kids. I have children walking home from school and with increase volume of cars I am afraid something serious can happen. Please consider the consequences. We are a working class family and it is not fair that people with money can take advantage and not see the negative results this will cause.”

The Zoning Commission’s public hearing on the mosque is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in Concert Hall. If the Zoning Commission approves the settlement it will go on to the Common Council.


29 responses to “Norwalk mosque settlement opposition emails number 100+”

  1. UN Envoy

    Where were all these people when the giant Oak Hills driving range and “golf learning center” were proposed a couple months ago for Oak Hills Park, expected to draw hundreds of cars a day just around the corner from the mosque site?
    Just a couple of people from West Norwalk spoke against the proposal at the master plan hearing because of traffic concerns. And there wasn’t a peep from the Republican Town Committee about it. Suddenly they are concerned about traffic?
    And why not a peep from anyone in West Norwalk about the numerous expansions of St Matthews Catholic Church, just across the park from the mosque site, that has turned that church into the largest religious institution in Norwalk, a mega-church with 2,400 member families from the region beyond Norwalk’s borders, over 300 parking spaces, and a catering hall and classrooms?
    St. Matthews is also in a AAA residence zone, and on a windy narrow road (Scribner, with roughly the same traffic counts as Fillow) with many blind curves, including a hairpin turn right near the main entrance that blocks sight lines between westbound traffic and the hundreds of cars leaving the site after masses and events like weddings or funerals. But not a peep about Oak Hills huge expansion or the multiple expansions of St. Matthews over the years into a 2,400 family mega-church from all these neighbors or the Republican Town Committee. Why the sudden concern for traffic from a 100-family mosque?

  2. One and Done

    UNEnvoy. Hint: Golf driving range peak operation will be during golf season and daylight hours. The range will not stick out like a sore thumb in the middle of a dangerous intersection. St. Matthews could fit 20 of the buildings you are proposing on your lot, you can barely fit one. And again St. Matthews is more off the beaten path and doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb, plus peak operation is 3 or 4 masses 60 odd days a year.
    Besides all this, you were told no one wanted this monstrosity over and over again. This is only the beginning of the heat and opposition on this. The silent majority is awakening.

  3. Scott

    Although i am opposed to a privately run driving range the traffic created by it will sporadic. The traffic for the mosque will be daily unlike the catholic “mega church” and in bunches. Also St. Mathew’s isn’t at the intersection of two primary roads. Even though it is large it is scaled to its property unlike the mosque

  4. Suzanne

    Misinformation from beginning to end, UN Envoy. That you have run out of misinformed ideas is glaring.
    Once again and for your edification, please check NON for the number of people against the Master Plan for the Oak Hills “learning facility.” The Friends of Oak Hills has people to speak at EVERY OHPA meeting: there were people there that night as with every other meeting OHPA holds. This commitment against the facility, if you check your facts, has been loud and clear.
    There hasn’t “been a peep” about St. Matthews’ expansion because their expansion does not incur upon anyone in traffic or adjacent. You see, UN Envoy, St. Matthews did something wise when they decided to develop in that location: they BOUGHT ENOUGH LAND!
    In addition, there is NO hairpin turn on Scribner. None. There are two wide entrances and exits down two sloped areas with wide views on both sides to accomplish adequate sight distance for safe entry and exit. NOT the situation at the proposed Mosque location.
    Since you have not clearly been reading other peoples’ comments, try this one: it is a three-way intersection at the proposed mosque site with a steep hill and blind throughway, through traffic at the bottom of the hill which runs into a one-sided stop sign abutting the three-way intersection at Taylor. The through traffic side has inadequate sight lines.

    Oh, and yeah. Check your locations on Google images or something. St. Matthews is not near the proposed mosque site.

    Enough is enough.

  5. Scott

    Although I am opposed to a privately run driving range the traffic generated will be sporadic unlike the mosque. The same can be said for the “mega-church” St. Matthew’s. Also St. Matthew’s unlike the mosque is built to complement the surroundings and size of the property, unlike the mosque. And unlike the mosque St. Matthew’s is not located at an intersection of two primary roads that the city designates as “priority” for snow removal. I would guess this means that they carry significant traffic.

  6. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    Funny, but I seem to recall that all these same anti-mosque arguments were raised in another context when St. George Greek Orthodox Church was being planned for the busy corner of Bayne and West Rocks. So far as I can tell, none of the terrible traffic and other problems have developed as the result of a busy religious institution going up on a heavily trafficed residential corner.

    Of course, Greeks are not Moslems.

  7. Average Joe

    Can you please confirm the lot size of the property that St. Matthews Church owns at 216 Scribner Ave as well as the sq. ft. of buildings vs. parking spaces?

    In comparison to the proposed building site, I think you will see that you are comparing apples to oranges.

  8. Scott

    Except during the festival the Greek church does not generate the daily traffic that muslim prayer demands

  9. Capital Improvements

    @averagejoe I’m not sure if the lot size matters at all. What is pertinent is what the regulations allow. Both of the mosques proposals meet the regulations.

    If we do not let regulations govern these matters and just leave it to subjective evaluation then the process is completely arbitrary.

  10. Suzanne

    RLF – your racist remarks are offensive.

  11. UN Envoy

    I thought the main concern was traffic, according to most of the opponents now. What difference does the property size make if the traffic still has to travel the roads? St Matthews has 2400 families as members, the mosque has 100 families as members. St Mathews is on 6 acres but at least half of that is wetlands and not buildable, squeezing 3 acres of nearly full lot coverage with buildings and paving onto the upland part of the property. Judging by Google Earth and the fact that there are two levels to most of the huge interconnected buildings, St. Mathews look like it has at least 100,000 square feet of usable space. That is 300 parking spaces for 100,000 square feet on 3 acres of buildable lot. The unbuildable wetlands at St. Matthews are not in front of the building as a buffer but are in the rear, backing up to Oak Hills Park except for one house in between.
    The downsized mosque has 22,000 square feet and 135 parking spaces on 1.5 acres, and has a lot coverage less than 25%., which follows our zoning code. The original application of 27,00 square feet and 89 parking spaces also followed our zoning code. The mosque has a few acres of wetlands behind it that are also unbuildable, although it isn’t part of the property. If the concern is now traffic, and the mosque follows our zoning code for lot coverage and building size including height, then actual lot size is irrelevant to the discussion.
    The truth is, no one from West Norwalk or the Republican Town Committee ever complained about St. Matthews multiple expansions over the years into a 100,000 square foot plus mega-church with 2,400 families as members and 300 parking spaces and facilities for throwing huge events. They also never complained (except for a very small group) about the huge expansion of Oak Hills Park in their new Master Plan, with a public driving range and “golf learning center” expected to draw hundreds of cars every day. Yet they are all going crazy over a 22,000 square foot mosque with 100 families as members. Why the sudden interest in West Norwalk towards traffic when all these other large traffic-generating facilities got free passes?

  12. Scott

    I apologize for the repeat comment. I thought the first one disappeared into the ether. UNenvoy i again ask as I have several times in several ways, would the average citizen if they owned this property be allowed to build the same size structure? If not would it be discrimination?

  13. peter parker

    Scott brings up an excellent point. The average Joe would never be allowed to build this monster on the proposed site, so why cow tow to this request just because it’s a controversial issue? Stand up and fight against this monstrosity of a structure.

  14. One and Done

    @RLF. Excellent point on St. Georges. That sits on 4 acres. Huge, huge difference. We suffer their fair once a year, but parking all over the busy intersection almost never happens other than that, when at Fillow it will be common practice every day.
    @UNEnvoy. The small lot, large building will add more traffic. Period.

  15. UN Envoy

    Suzanne, the mosque follows all of our regulations, both before and after their 20% downsizing and 50% increase in parking for the settlement Religious institutions are allowed in AAA zones. Always have been. Scribner is a series of blind curves. I suggest you drive it. There is a warning sign right in front of St Matthews that is an arrow bent at a 90 degree angle warning about the hairpin curve ahead, a curve that actually blocks sight lines of all oncoming traffic from the church driveway. Why are you insisting it’s not there? Your otherwise reliable credibility is suffering.
    Scott, anyone could have built a single family house at the same size and scale of the mosque. It just needed to be less than 35 feet in ht, less the 2.5 stories, and less than 25% lot coverage. Which is what the mosque adheres to, both before and after the downsizing. The only difference is the minaret, which a house can’t have, (churches can have steeples too in any zone) although a house can have a chimney or antenna at any height. Not sure about a windmill. ;
    Norwalk has no maximum FAR (Floor area ratio) requirements in residential zones like most other towns do, a legacy of decades of decisions by property rights advocates who controlled City Hall. That is how Rowayton got all the huge McMansions that transformed the historic New England fishing village full of quaint cottages into an overbuilt Scarsdale-by-the-Sea. The irony is RLUIPA would have allowed the mosque or any other religious institution to exceed city regulations, but they were always determined to work within the city codes to avoid a confrontation. They only bought the property with our existing regulations in mind, and proposed a project that met all of our codes. You can see where that got them. That is why if the case goes to court and the they win, which they will, they will basically be able to build anything they want at any size. That is why the condo association across the street supports the settlement, and why the top legal experts in the country that Mayor Moccia hired strongly recommended settlement now.
    If this ugly and misinformed mob mentality that has been stirred up by the Republican Town Committee succeeds in killing the hard-fought settlement, it will surely end up costing every single property owner and renter in the city with millions in legal fees and damages. There will also be a predicted reduction of the city ‘s AAA bond rating with that unprecedented scale of unfunded liability since we don’t have insurance to cover it, with increased taxes and reduced services and school funding to pay for it all (landlords pass tax increases onto their tenants in higher rents). The entire city will end up paying for decades for what appears to be a fiscally irresponsible political stunt to stir up a mob against the mayor. Not to mention the national notoriety Norwalk may get for being intolerant, which may damage the image of our diverse city forever. This is huge, and frightening.

  16. One and Done

    @UNenvoy is obviously clueless about factors that contribute to AAA ratings. The city has no where near the leverage that other AAA rated cities have and is in fact about $50 million below peak debt to legal limit ratios we had all while having AAA rating in the past. The city can and should borrow tens of millions if it results in protecting billions of dollars in real property values.
    Another factor of debt rating include the ability to pay back the monies borrowed. If real property values decline and stupid zoning decisions result in an overall loss on the ability for the city to attract and retain financially sound investors, the remaining tax base will have to shoulder more of the burden of a growing government and that in itself can be a negative on ratings, alla Bridgeport. That’s the kind of stuff education majors never learn, but now you are informed.

  17. One and Done

    p.s. UNenvy. I don’t live there but am equally at risk for some kooks jamming a community center into my house next door and destroying its value.
    The city should fight this because the intended use is out of place and out of character for the neighborhood. An ideal situation would involve an interest free loan to Al Madany to purchase a suitable lot and in turn the city would purchase 127 Fillow at fair market value and not a stitch more. Anything less than this should result in the city pushing this to the Supreme Court if necessary. There is no sane judge on the planet, who if they actually looked at the lot and the intersection, that would think this is a suitable place for the proposal.
    Ramming this down the throats of the neighbors and the citizens will reap you nothing but animosity in perpetuity. Why would you want that and not some favorable outcome for all? Seems from the posts here and there most of us don’t get your penchant for sticking it in our eye. It leads others to draw conclusions about motives that probably don’t apply here, but leave others to guessing and fearing the worst.

  18. Suzanne

    UNEnvoy, I just drove that part of Scribner today – there are slight “S” turns coming from the South with very little curvature thereafter heading to Richards. That is a far cry from a blind hill, oncoming traffic with no stop sign onto Taylor and a single stop sign at Taylor hoping and praying one does not get clobbered by a car coming from the right from, yes, that steep hill with no visual connection to that intersection until you are almost directly on top of it.
    St. Matthews: Wow, you just can’t let that one go. Very rarely is there more traffic than usual perhaps from those attending mass on days of obligation, meaning there is little traffic at all because normally there is none or just a few cars passing.
    You have not been on the campus. The pond is a lovely aspect to the land there but the point is, they can have a pond at all given the “giant” facility you claims is at this “mega-church”. I wonder if you have ever seen a real “mega-church”. Those would be the huge auditorium size structure of the mid-West, South and the West, huge auditorium structures that can hold thousands, not hundreds. (Google “Crystal Cathedral” for an example of a real “mega-church.”) Yours is a false analogy and your perception of development at St. Matthews very, very flawed.
    I am guessing you read just a bit of the Norwalk City Building Code to come up with the idea that a single family residence the size of the mosque could be built there. The Zoning Commission first rejected the mosque plan because it exceeded the allowable requirements. RLUIPA to the rescue because neither you nor I would have the same rights.
    The condo board accepted the new plan because to fight it would require more money in litigation, I suspect, than they can or want to afford. The mosque doesn’t have a win there just a defeat.
    Yes, this mob mentality from the RTC, which I have no part of and I believe very few people do, we are arguing for common sense only, will probably rue the day they rejected the mosque.
    I submit to you that the ONLY reason the Commission and Council will accept this scheme is money. Money, money, money. Because Al-Madany has used their own discriminatory tools to fight for something that is just not right for the site. And that’s it – what is appropriate for the site and what is not. The mosque is not whether it complies to existing regulations or not. It is not what is right but, unfortunately, it is what is legal. A very low principle indeed to aspire to.

  19. Rod Lopez-Fabrega

    Apologies. I should have written “Muslim” and not the (objectionable to some believers), “Moslem”.

  20. Scott

    Suzanne I feel your pain as the value of your property that you worked hard for all your life dwindles. For many of is our homes are our retirement investment and many are seeing their’s slip away. Having a structure of that size built our yyour front window is much like when the route 7 connector was built. Neighborhoods were destroyed along with property values. If it happened to me I’d be lost.

  21. UN Envoy

    Scott, the entire mosque and community center could fit inside the Norwalk Concert Hall, seriously. The dome would fit on the stage, with room to spare. It is 30 feet wide and 15 feet high, about the size of 2 SUV’s. The total height is 34 feet 6 inches, about the same height as the condo buildings across the street except they are on a hill so they will loom over the mosque. The minaret is a fraction of the size of the towering high tension towers that cross through Oak Hills Park and cross Fillow Street just 500 feet down the road. Don’t take my word for it, study the drawings yourself. No one’s property values are going to plummet. That is absurd.
    You are acting like this is the Great Mosque of Istanbul. The irrational hysteria surrounding this project is getting ridiculous, like a bunch of Chicken Littles ruuning around screaming the sky is falling. Have you actually studied the drawings? The mosque is 20% the size of St. Matthews across the park, in terms of traffic generated and total square footage. The fact that the mosque insisted on saving the petite red house doesn’t help their cause, as it is a dollhouse basically not much larger than your standard RV. Stick any building next to it and it will look large,, like a skinny wife makes her fat husband look even larger. I joke, but seriously the mosque is not as large as everyone is making it out to be. Get a hold of yourselves! Take a cold shower. Whatever. Just stop making absurd claims without any knowledge of the reality of the true scale and impact of this project, which is no where near what the RTC propaganda machine is scaring you into believing. That is their strategy and unfortunately it seems to be working. Just read Peter Nolin’s letter for all the well-chosen code words. It will surely become Exhibit Number One in any subsequent federal trial.

  22. Suzanne

    And taxes keep going up!

  23. UN Envoy

    Suzanne, St. Matthews holds 958 people after 3 expansions since it was built in 1960. That’s in the main church. They also have a chapel that holds 121. Therefore the total worship capacity is 1,079. It has 2,400 families as members according to its website. It has a sharp blind curve on the east side of its driveway, and is on a narrow road with average traffic counts similar to Fillow. The most recent expansion in 2003 doubled the size of the church and added a large 11,000 square foot addition to its “church center” with catering hall and classrooms. At that time, the city waived the need for any traffic study.
    Norwalk has 53 churches and 3 synagogues. The average size of the churches is roughly 200 families, with seating capacities between 150 and 300, which fits the national average. St. Matthews has 2,400 families as members, with a seating capacity of 1,079. A megachurch is defined on Wikipedia as any church with weekly attendance on any weekend of over 2,000. That would be for all masses or services combined. Let’s consider an average family as 2 adults and 2 kids, meaning the actual membership of individuals at St. Matthews is about 9,600 including adults and kids. It is highly likely that the weekly attendance at St. Matthews’ 5 masses on Sunday and one on Saturday at 4 totals 2,000 in a church with a seating capacity of 1,079 for each service, and a total membership of close to 10,000 individuals.
    That makes it an official megachurch. And the city told this megachurch in 2003 they didn’t need a traffic study when they doubled their seating capacity, but they told the much smaller mosque in 2012 that they did. That was offered up as evidence in the lawsuit against the city as seen here on NON when she published it last year. As the lawsuit states, the mosque has a seating capacity of 435. But that’s what the city calculated for them based on the official space needed for a chair, or 7 square feet.. Muslims don’t sit on chairs in a mosque, they use prayer rugs that average 3 by 5 feet, or 15 square feet.
    The actual capacity of the mosque is therefore about half of what the city calculated using standards that do not apply to the unique qualities of a mosque. That would make the actual capacity of the mosque closer to 200, no bigger than the average church across the country, and only about 20% the size of the megachurch St. Matthews just around the corner with an official capacity of 1,079.
    Have you ever heard anyone complain about the traffic from St. Matthews with all of their masses, classes, and special events that they schedule? There is a mass every day. The mosque will have one main service a week, on Friday at 1 pm that occurs while kids are in school and folks are at work, which is why it is considered an off peak hour. The other prayer times will be attended sporadically by few members just as they are at other mosques, and just as they are at churches with daily services that attract a small number of attendees as most folks have very busy lives with work and school regardless of what religion they are.
    The fear and vitriol being spewed all around the city and on flyers is not based on facts or any reality, but on repeated propaganda by a small number of folks who have calculated that by getting an angry mob out, they can control this process and push the city to a dangerous legal brink, potentially costing taxpayers millions and destroying Norwalk’s reputation for years to come. And all this just to try to win the next local election and stick it to the mayor. If the settlement does fail, watch these same folks disappear quickly into the background as every single resident and business in Norwalk will have to pay the steep financial price for this fiasco that will surely unfold, and the amateur local lawyers on the RTC who now think they know more than national experts about complicated federal laws will be exposed for the petty games they tried to play with Norwalk’s future for their own personal gain.
    Shame on them, and shame on us if we fall for this calculated trick that has no good outcome for the city beyond what the settlement would do, which is protect all Norwalk taxpayers from undue harm, and protect the constitutional rights of a small group of Americans who live in Norwalk and are part of our diverse community, and who are being treated differently than everyone else simply because of their religion. How ironic that could happen here, in Norwalk, in a city and in a country both founded on principles of religious freedom.

  24. Scott

    UN Envoy I would feel the same about a power tower or a condo complex (which almost happened directly behind me). It’s bad enough that I have to explain what the sewer pump station is and all the cars on the street from the houses that have been cut into apartments. What was a great residential street full of families with children where I had a wonderful childhood isn’t as wonderful as it used to be.

  25. What people fail to consider is the site cannot accommodate in a safe manner the traffic it generates. St Matthew church can because of its driveway. Traffic does not cue onto Scribner and there is plenty of road width to handle through traffic. Also the overflow lot is over a mile away and buses will be used to bring people to services. None of the church’s in tone require this. I would say that this is not a stable traffic situation. As far as the second building it is still not clear what it will ge used for.

    By the way I still do not get the math on the number of families and the size of the mosque. 850 seats for 100 families sounds lout of whack given area demographics.

  26. Suzanne

    UNEnvoy, You greatly overestimate the attendance at daily as well as weekly masses at St. Matthews. Daily is about one dozen people usually attended in a small, cabin like chapel between the Church parking lot and rectory. The week end attendance only begins to reach a few hundred through several masses. That 2,400 families contribute or can be included in a census is based on whomever gives at any time, any where to the Church for any reason and does not reflect attendance figures. So, if you want to really compare apples to apples as opposed to oranges, you would need attendance data. Anything else is speculation on your part.
    Your assumptions, then, unless you attend St. Matthews on a regular basis are highly misleading and, I am afraid, very incorrect.
    The capacity of the Mosque is not what is at stake, necessarily. It is the size and scope of the building in a tight residential area set hard by a steep driveway and, yes, that pesky old intersection you seem to easily dismiss with false arguments about its safety. So what if there have been only two accident reports in 8 years? That has occurred with very little traffic, very little, while the Mosque represents a lot more with a driveway exiting out right in the middle of a curve with oncoming traffic and no mitigation to reduce speed or vision.
    That St. Matthew’s DRIVEWAY has one steep driveway? Did you examine the visual range of that space? You can SEE oncoming traffic. Not so at this proposed Mosque area.
    Al-Madany differentiated themselves from all others by invoking RULIPA which, apparently, claims a burden on one’s practice of their religion ANYWHERE, appropriate or not. They, in fact, sequestered themselves by claiming discrimination in order to win a lawsuit to build a large building on an unsuitable lot in a residential area. That is not spewing propaganda or hatred – that is the truth.
    They would be no more special if they were not a religious organization and I maintain that Zoning would have done what they originally did to any other kind of group or individual had they not had RULIPA to turn to – they would have thrown the plans out and said, “No”, and rightfully so.
    So let’s be clear UNEnvoy – it is about the bulk and size of the building. It is about the safety of a new, much busier driveway exiting out onto an already compromised set of streets. It is about the inappropriate mass of the structure to the size of the land in a residential area.
    The fear is money. Al-Madany has played their willful cards right. They will get what they want creating their own prejudice. This self-flagellation has created great ill-will and fear in the community. While I do not agree with most of what has been said, what in the heck did they expect?

  27. anon

    The City did not commission its own traffic study, why? Why choose to rely on the traffic studies of others who have their own agendas. Why not a traffic study that has the interests of Norwalk in mind?

    This is a REGIONAL DESTINATION. What happens to West Norwalk, Rt 1 and CT Ave.

    Stamford has a population of 125,000, Norwalk 87,000. The Stamford mosque, on a main, downtown street, is 8 times smaller than Norwalk’s. It’s membership, like Norwalk’s, is 100. This does not add up unless the expectation is for there to be many, many more people than 100.


  28. LWitherspoon

    Since the neighbors seem to have a lot of traffic concerns, and we are told repeatedly that Al Madany is simply 100 families, would Al Madany be willing to agree as a condition of approval that its membership won’t ever grow above 150 families at that location?

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