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Proposed Norwalk mosque ‘usable space’ less than nearby St. Matthew

Norwalk churches 014-2014-08-28
St. Matthew Church at 216 Scribner Ave.

1:40 p.m.: This story has been updated and headline changed to clarify the usable space figure vs. total building size for the proposed Al Madany mosque. A link to an architect’s chart was added. Also, information on the Stamford mosque was clarified and a link to the referenced Stamford Advocate story was added. 

NORWALK, Conn. – A mosque proposed for Fillow Street in Norwalk would be eight times bigger than a newly built mosque in Stamford. Whether  it would be bigger than the largest nearby church, though, is questionable, according to records in the tax assessor’s office.

The Stamford Islamic Center is a 5,200-square-foot mosque, according to the Stamford Advocate. The Norwalk mosque design includes a community hall for a total building size of 42,542 square feet. The Advocate says that the Stamford mosque is believed to be the first mosque in Fairfield County built from the ground up.

It’s difficult to come by information regarding Norwalk churches. Of four contacted by Nancy On Norwalk this week, only one was forthcoming with information. The tax assessor’s office offers conflicting information. The “liv/leasable” listing on property records should correspond to square footage, one clerk said, but “liv/leasable” does not necessarily correspond to the figures under “livable” and “effective.” Another clerk agreed it was confusing and said he couldn’t explain. Tax Assessor Michael Stewart did not respond to an email inquiry.

Norwalk churches 007-2014-08-28
The view of St. Matthew Church from the sidewalk – no screening needed.

Nevertheless, here is what we found out:

• The proposed Al Madany Islamic Center would be 42,542 square feet of building on 1.559 acre, including a mosque and a community hall. However, the “usable” floor space is 21,800 square feet, according to settlement documents on file with the city. See this chart for the architect’s figures: Settlement-comparison-chart

• St. Matthew Church at 216 Scribner Ave., which was built in 1960 and has expanded several times, is listed in the tax assessor’s office as having 35,850 square feet under “liv/leasable” and 30,047 square feet of living area and 30,825 effective area. The cathedral is listed as having 12,862 square feet, for a total “gross” of 43,839 square feet. It’s listed as being on 2.52 acres, but that might be misleading – much of that is unbuildable, a source said. Norwalk Senior Environmental Officer Alexis Cherichetti said she couldn’t provide information as to how much of the lot is actually buildable. There are too many variables, she said, including setbacks.

• The St. George Greek Orthodox Church at 238 West Rocks Road is listed as having 12,326 liv/leasable square feet on 4.44 acres. However, construction has begun on a 21,000-square-foot community center for which a special permit was granted in 2005. That will bring the total to 33,326 square feet.

United Church of Rowayton
The United Church of Rowayton. Parishioners have a view of the water.

• The United Church of Rowayton at 210 Rowayton Ave. is listed as having 15,473 liv/leasable square feet on 3.65 acres.

• St. Mary Church at 669 West Ave. is listed as having 33,117 liv/leasable square feet on 2.36 acres

• St. Paul Church at 60 East Avenue has 16,645 liv/leasable square feet on 2.36 acres.

• Bethel AME at 31 Merwin St. has 8,443 liv/leasable square feet on .81 acre

• Parkway Assembly of God at 260 New Canaan Ave. has 15,752 liv/leasable square feet on 1.44 acres

• Lighthouse Baptist at 4 Bayne St. has 3,608 liv/leasable square feet on .25 acre

• Brookside Church at 463 Flax Hill Road has liv/leasable 1,440 square feet on .14 acre

• Rowayton Methodist at 180 Rowayton Ave. has 8,072 liv/leasable square feet on .51 acre

• St Phillip’s Church is listed as being at 25 North Ave. for tax purposes and listed in other places as being at 1 Father Conlon Place and on France Street. It has 46,998 of liv/leasable square feet on 7.29 acres. The records also list 14,262 square feet of livable area and 17,351 square feet of effective area.

The view of
The view of the United Church of Rowayton from the neighboring condominium complex.

NoN contacted St. Matthew, the United Church of Rowayton, the Greek Orthodox and St. Phillip’s Roman Catholic Church. Only the Catholics at St. Phillip’s were willing to provide information: There are 1,200 families in the parish. On an average Sunday a total of about 600 people attend the three services. It’s double that amount on Christmas and Easter.

Councilman Bruce Kimmel (D-At Large) said there’s a more subjective comparison of churches to be made. Many people who are opposed to the mosque say it’s because of the traffic, but no one is complaining about St. George’s Church, he said, not even during the recent weekend festival, a fundraiser for the community center.

“The church has 400 families as members; probably over 1,000 people,” Kimmel said. “And it is located at the corner of West Rocks Road and Bayne, which normally has much more traffic than Fillow Street. What’s more, about 150 yards away on Bayne is Lighthouse Baptist Church, and a little south, on East Rocks and Half Mile, is St. Jerome Church, which is very large. Of course, there is more traffic on Sunday, for a couple of hours, but it is continual – no speeding, quite calm and, as I said: only on Sunday mornings. Never had any complaints about the festival, with its Ferris wheels, etc. By the way, people park all over the place during the festival, but nobody cares.”

Comments

17 responses to “Proposed Norwalk mosque ‘usable space’ less than nearby St. Matthew”

  1. UN Envoy

    Your comparisons are misleading. You included basements and unlivable area for the mosque that total 42,542, when the actual livable space that is used for all calculations are 21,800 square feet. You compare the “total” square footage of 42,542 of the mosque (which includes the underground parking deck) to St. Matthews “livable” or effective space of 43,849, when you should use the lower number of 21,800 compared to St. Matthews 43,849, to compare apples to apples.
    ;
    Basically, St. Matthews livable space total is 43, 849, the mosque’s is 21,800, which means the mosque is half the size of St. Matthews, not equal in size as your headline erroneously claims.

  2. MTP

    this article is extremely unfair and misleading. St Matthews is on almost twice as much property. Doesn’t matter if its build-able or not, there is a lot of space between them and their neighbors and I used to be a parishioner there before moving and there was never a traffic problem. By my understanding St. Matthew also has MUCH less activity there on a grand and daily scale. No comparison, you should take this article down.

  3. Betsy Wrenn

    No comparison between St. George’s on West Rocks Road (two blocks from Route 7) and a mega-mosque on Fillow & North Taylor. West Rocks is a flat open thoroughfare with long views. St. George’s grounds are wide, flat and spacious; at least two acres or more.

    Fillow Street is a narrow, twisting back road with steep winding hills, blind curves, and rock ledge. Anyone who travels Fillow regularly does so carefully, and knows that the hill at North Taylor is treacherous in winter, and wildly unsuited to a development of this size and scope.

  4. isabelle hargrove

    @MTP – I disagree, this is a very instructive article and I found the information really put things in prospective.
    *
    Stamford is building a 5,000 Sq/ft mosque, why would Norwalk need 40,000+ sq/ft?
    *
    The proposed ratio of livable sq/ft per acre and expected attendance for this project blows everyone else out of the water – You cannot compare their proposed bulk and density to any of these other projects.
    *
    St Matthews sits on multiple times the same acreage with the same 40+sq/ft building. Why do 100 families need the same size building than St Matthews which reportedly counts as many as 2,000 families?
    *
    Yes, Mr. Kimmel is bias and has clearly decided that the residents of Norwalk are just a bunch of irrational racists. I suggest he goes and represent a more worthy community than Norwalk! But the facts don’t lie. It’s too big for the lot, it does not meet some aspects of our zoning code and is intended to serve a much larger community than reported.This is a clear case of abusive over-development and I would expect our leadership to make a more valiant effort at protecting our city!

  5. UN Envoy

    Betsy Wrenn, your description of Fillow Street would also describe Scribner, that has the 43,839 square foot 2,400 family, 300 parking space St. Matthews located on it, with a seating capacity of 1,079. Scribner and Fillow have similar traffic counts at around 3,500 cars per day. Yet no one in West Norwalk ever complained to the city about St. Matthews, and in fact, the city waived any need for them to have a traffic study. They are a megachurch as defined by Wikipedia, that was treated much differently by the city than the mosque. The mosque always followed the zoning code even with the original application.
    ;
    The mosque is not the same size as St. Matthews. The article is misleading. St. Mathews is actually double the size of the mosque in livable square footage (43,839 vs. 21,800 for the mosque.) NON included the non-livable underground parking in the mosque total, but not the basements and other non-livable space at St. Matthews.
    ;
    The mosque has an “official” seating capacity of 435, but that is based on a standard of 7 square feet per seat, on a chair or in a pew. Mosques do not have seats or pews, as worshippers use prayer rugs that average 15 square feet each (3 feet by 5 feet). That means that the actual capacity of the mosque is less than half of what the city standard said they have, since the standard has no allowance for the unique “seating” of a mosque. With a realistic capacity of around 200 instead of 435, the mosque is about 20% the size of St. Matthews with a seating capacity of 1,079. Yet they got a free pass from West Norwalk neighbors.
    :
    Ironically, David McCarthy, who is helping raise all the commotion against the mosque, belongs to St. Matthews, which is much larger and in the same AAA residence zone in the same neighborhood. Why two different official treatments from the city here, one loose one for Catholics, and one strict one for Muslims, when it comes to traffic impacts?

    1. Mark Chapman

      @UN Envoy

      You are correct regarding the usable space vs. gross building size of the mosque. We have updated the story and included the chart that explains the square footage of each component.

  6. Suzanne

    UNEnvoy, Apparently doing accurate research is not your strong suit or applying totally in applicable data to the wrong comparison is. Please check other reliable resources to re-check what you have said re: Scribner vs. Fillow/Taylor/Steep Hill: for those of us who live in West Norwalk, we live in fear of that intersection and KNOW it is dangerous; more traffic is only going to increase that fear and danger.
    *
    The mosque is not the same size as St. Matthews but the mosque does not sit upon the same acreage either. There is far more at St. Matthews to accommodate all of their needs without incursion upon the surrounding neighborhood. Not so the proposed mosque, no matter what the worship size, by rug, is.
    *
    There you go trying that discrimination thing again. The Catholics knew to obtain the correct size plot when they did purchase to accommodate all of their needs without causing traffic hazards or bulky, huge buildings in a residential area. Not so the mosque. There is no difference based on religion here – it is based on the outsized development being proposed by Al-Madany and THEY were the ones to bring up the discrimination card, NOT the community.

  7. Peter Torrano

    The records on line actually show that St. Matthews has 53,844 square feet (gross) comprised of 3 buildings. The property upon which it sits is recorded at 21.533 acres. the total square footage of the buildings takes up 5.7% of the property. Some large portion of the property cannot be built upon, but that does not reduce the size of the acreage owned by St. Matthews. I use St. Matthews because that seems to be the target of choice for the pro-mosque proponents.

    Compared that to 21,800 square feet, plus the existing 1202 square foot building already on the property (yes, did that get forgotten?) that the proponents of the mosque wish to build on 1.56 acres , and you get 32% of the property being used. So, a church with 13.8 times the property of the mosques uses 5.7% of the property, while the mosque on property 13.8 times smaller uses 32% of the property. Apples to apples.

    The church in AAA zoning (sorry nancy, but several of the churches you listed are not) that uses the highest percentage of land for their buildings is St, Jerome’s at 10.5%. Should the mosque match the church with the largest percentage of land used for their buildings, they would have a structure of just under 7000 square feet, not 23, 202 square feet.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Peter Torrano

      The existing building is figured into the total square footage covering the at just under 24 percent. Your lot size for St. Matthew seems way out of proportion with everything we’ve seen to date; we will recheck this. And there was no attempt to portray the entire list as AAA zoned churches; the list is a reference for those not familiar with the large churches in question.

    2. Mark Chapman

      @Peter Torrano

      The document from the Norwalk Tax Assessor’s Office show2 the parcel at 216 Scribner to be 2.54 acres.

  8. Peter Torrano

    Should be Nancy, not nancy. Sorry for the quick send button.

  9. Peter Torrano

    And that should also be just under 8000 square feet. My error in calculation, but corrected.

  10. Peter Torrano

    Mark,

    Okay, thank you. Most is not property that can not be built on.

    Pete

  11. Peter Torrano

    A call to the office will confirm that the size is 21.5 acres. They have not yet updated their information since reval kicked in, and they have the wrong number posted. Please call the office then report back here.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Peter Torrano

      Two calls to the office, two messages, no return calls. I suspect your information is correct, and we are left to wonder how the city could have missed 19 out of 21.5 acres… My guess is it may be because it’s unusable, but we shall try to follow up on that if we are able to speak with anyone.

  12. Peter Torrano

    Mark,

    Thank you. I suspect it is just a clerical error and they did not put the “1” between the 2 and 5.

    Pete

  13. Karen

    Pete is correct but he fails to add in addition that St. Matt’s is on a straight stretch of road with ample frontage and multiple points of ingress/egress. The Fillow Street property is oddly shaped with the majority of its boundaries touching treacherous terrain that outlets cannot be built on. Its traffic will be forced toward the already dangerous intersection. The properties are not at all similar beyond the fact that they both have grass and trees. And come to think of it, if the mosque is approved they will only have trees in common since almost all of the Fillow St property will be paved.

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