Opinion: Make no mistake – West Norwalk won; SoNo chooses to go positive

Mark Chapman
Mark Chapman

Mark Chapman is NancyOnNorwalk’s editor.

NORWALK, Conn. – To clear up any confusion resulting from stories and offhand remarks published elsewhere just prior to and following the Al Madany v. Norwalk suit settlement:

  • A last-minute suit filed by a local attorney challenging the legality to the Zoning Commission’s Sept. 4 vote to approve the earlier settlement is now moot.
  • Don’t expect any appeals of the final settlement, should it be approved by the court (it will be).

The settlement announced and approved Tuesday night by the Common Council ends Al Madany’s bid to build a mosque at 127 Fillow St. Al Madany is a party to the agreement, and will sell the land to the city.

Norwalk Corporation Council Mario Coppola responded to our questions about the above bulleted items thusly:

“… The Commission’s September 4, 2014 decision is not an appealable decision under Connecticut General Statutes § 8-8. Rather, the vote was a decision to settle pending litigation.

“The Supreme Court of Connecticut has held “that a planning commission’s decision to settle a pending appeal by entering into a stipulated judgment is not a decision within the meaning of § 8-8(b), and, therefore, an appeal to the Superior Court pursuant to § 8-8(b) does not lie from that decision,” even though a special permit will result. Brookridge Dist. Ass’n v. Planning and Zoning Com’n of Greenwich, 259 Conn. 607, 608 & 618 (Conn. 2002). The September 4 decision was the result of lengthy, arms-length negotiation conducted over a number of months, with the participation of a federal magistrate. The public was fully informed of the terms of the former settlement agreement, and given the opportunity to comment on it. In short, the Superior Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the subject lawsuit, and it should be dismissed. See, Brookridge, 259 Conn. at 608 & 618; Sendak, 7 Conn. App. at 242 & 244.

“Furthermore, the subject lawsuit is now moot as a result of the latest amendments to the settlement agreement, which were approved by the Common Council on September 23rd. The decision that the subject lawsuit is challenging to approve the development of a mosque at 127 Fillow Street will no longer be part of the settlement agreement that will be submitted to the court. Therefore, the plaintiffs of the subject lawsuit, who live near 127 Fillow Street, no longer have standing in the lawsuit.”

Bottom line? The case took its course, which included court-mandated settlement talks. Al Madany exercised its rights under the law, Norwalk fought the good fight, and the bottom line is that West Norwalk won, and Norwalk’s taxpayers got off easier than they would have – by a long shot – if the suit went to trial. And Al Madany , with the help of a pro-active city government, will try to find a property where it can build the mosque it always wanted.

Saturday in the park…

With a nod to the ‘70s supergroup Chicago, the hundreds of people in attendance at South Norwalk’s Ryan Park might have thought it was the Fourth of July, what with the gorgeous weather, the kids’ activities, a basketball tournament and local dignitaries. There were plenty of smiles and laughter as the neighborhood turned out for a good time at the annual South Norwalk Community Day.

The event was in marked contrast to Ferguson in Norwalk, an education-themed event aimed at keeping the heat on the Norwalk Board of Education for a remark made outside a meeting by member Jack Chiaramonte and what three minority members have claimed is a lack of respect and inclusion when it comes to important issues. The event’s name was meant to equate that situation – and the city’s education achievement gap – with the bubbling cauldron of racial strife in the St. Louis suburb that erupted after a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager.

Fewer than two dozen people showed up for that event in South Norwalk that featured a prayer walk, presentations from local and out-of-town speakers – including some with national profiles – and a resource expo.

Given the choice, South Norwalk chose to go positive Saturday.


7 responses to “Opinion: Make no mistake – West Norwalk won; SoNo chooses to go positive”

  1. Casey Smith

    Thank you, Mark!

  2. Ms Ruby McPherson

    So perhaps they can get a baseball field done, that’s another sport some the children would like to play instead of leaving there community. And true playground equipment .

  3. Ark

    Mario should be fired for having created this mess. He obviously doesn’t understand zoning. His statement about the appeal Cavallo started is wrong on its face. The law he sites is that “The Supreme Court of Connecticut has held “that a planning commission’s decision to settle a pending appeal by entering into a stipulated judgment is not a decision within the meaning of § 8-8(b), and, therefore, an appeal to the Superior Court pursuant to § 8-8(b) does not lie from that decision.” Cavallo’s point was that there was no appeal pending to give the Zoning commission jurisdiction to grant a special permit. The Federal case brought by AL Madany was not a timely or legal appeal under state law. So the cases sited by Mario don’t apply and the Commission needed a new application to grant a modified special permit. If Mario had his way Norwalk would be embroiled in new litigation. Fortunately the Council went over his head and settled for cash without a new permit for AL Madany. Cavallo’s clients won’t appeal they won. Mario must go before he further damages this City he occasionally visits when he wants to play lawyer.

  4. West Norwalk Neighbor

    Gee, didn’t Mario negotiate the settlement that was approved by the Council? The Judge ordered the parties to try and reach a settlement, which Joe Santo and Emily Wilson negotiated and then the Zoning Commission approved. The Council decided not to approve that settlement, so Mayor Rilling had Corporation Counsel (Mario) negotiate the new settlement that was finally agreed to that West Norwalk is so happy with and all of the rest of us are paying for.

    Ark, you must be a Norwalk lawyer (BTW – cases are “cited”, not “sited”)…The only reason all the Norwalk attorneys came out against the Mosque is because they weren’t getting a piece of the action, like they are with Lowe’s, the Mall, BJ’s, etc.

  5. Oldtimer

    Off the subject, a little, Norwalk should look at ,for 95/7, a higher end rental and/or condo project , recently built in Omaha that includes several 7 story buildings with retail at ground level, parking underground, and a small park featuring weekly concerts in summer and outdoor televised football in the fall. Project is called Midtown Crossing and there is a website that gives a lot more detail. http://midtowncrossing.com/about/default.aspx

  6. Victor Cavallo

    While this is not the appropriate forum to parry with Corporation Counsel on the merits of my clients’ Administrative Appeal, a couple of points:

    1. Any judgment can be appealed, the merits notwithstanding; and any judgment can be opened, re-argued, and submitted for reconsideration by any party, both before the settlement is approved by the court and after. If the new proposed consent order affords Al Madany as broad discretion as the prior one to refer the City’s conduct for federal court review, there is no doubt that they will avail themselves of this option if events don’t evolve to their liking.

    2. No issue can approach the status of mootness in this conflated universe of state land use law and federal civil rights law, nor can finality be brought to bear on this controversy, until and unless the Al Madany Islamic Center, Inc. quitclaims it’s interest in the Fillow Street property to the City or a third party. It is my understanding that under the terms of the Council approved settlement, Al Madany will continue to own the property until 2015.

  7. It’s just laws.

    How ironic for a sitting Planning Commissioner to be chasing a lawsuit against the city, based on an application that only occurred because of the city’s broken Zoning Code that he never tried to fix. We need more professional planners and architects on our land use boards like other cities have, and less opportunistic lawyers like Mr. Cavallo.

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