West Norwalk residents give glimpse into state of mosque talks

NORWALK, Conn. – Despite the iron curtain of secrecy that has shrouded the Al Madany Islamic Center suit against Norwalk, a couple of neighbors of the proposed mosque site provided a peek at what might be coming down the road in West Norwalk.

The city has been defending itself in a lawsuit since 2012 when the Zoning Commission turned thumbs-down on a proposed 27,000-square-foot mosque and an accessory building at 127 Fillow St. The Commission said the decision was based strictly on zoning issues for the neighborhood, while Al Madany countered that religious discrimination was at play. The suit alleges violations of the First and 14th amendments, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and Connecticut’s Religious Freedom Act. The suit also challenged the city’s zoning regulations.

Settlement talks between the Islamic Center and the city and neighbors have been going on for months, as ordered by Judge Donna F. Martinez, with both sides warned to remain mum about the details. However, at Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting, with the Council scheduled to hear an update on the talks in a closed executive session, two residents who are privy to the talks made their feelings known in open session.

Resident Brian Bisceglia said he wanted the Common Council members to know how the neighborhood felt about the state of the talks.

“Although there are negotiations going on and I have been involved in them, we are not quite there yet,” he said. “I understand there may be some feeling that the neighbors of the neighborhood have gotten there or are OK with some of the settlement discussions that are going on. As a neighborhood, we’re still not quite there. We’re making progress, but we aren’t. I just wanted to be able to say that to the full council. I wasn’t sure what the true feeling was so I wanted to take the opportunity to be able to say that.”

Another resident, Ed Ryan, who lives nearby on Fillow Street, said, “Our concerns are all the traffic, parking and safety. We feel a structure like that … will be detrimental to the neighborhood. So please consider this in any discussion on the lawsuit.”

Prior to the suit, mosque opponents publicly complained about the size of the structure and the accessory building, which they felt would draw crowds and create traffic jams and was simply too big for the 1-acre lot. More than a year ago, a settlement was drawn up and approved by the Zoning Commission by a 6-1 vote, but a new lawyer was brought in and the city toughened its resolve.

The two sides met Friday for a negotiating session. They are scheduled to update the court today (June 11).


3 responses to “West Norwalk residents give glimpse into state of mosque talks”

  1. piberman

    At 27000 sq ft the proposed structures will be one of the largest religious compounds in Norwalk. For just a 100 families ? Costing say $300 per foot thst’s $8 million suggesting that a regional facility is being planned with obvious really heavy duty traffic concerns going well beyond the use by just a 100 local families. Neighboring home owners would likely be anxious to sell over the expected heavy traffic allowing further expansion of the mosque. And thereby utterly transforming a residential community.

    Whats truly puzzling is why a religious group would seek to establish in face of vigorous opposition a huge facility in a long established residential community when the City has so many other attractive properties without zonong issues. Religious groups commonly avoid disrupting or antagonizing potential neighbors. Especially with unfounded charges if “discrimination” . Is there any long established residential community that wouldn’t object to a huge religious complex being constructed in their midst where no others exist ? Using “bully” tactics charging “discrimination” ?

    Lets hope that our public officials stand firm and support the neighborhood involved and stanchly continue to defend the City from the obviously unfounded charges of “discrimination”.
    In so doing City officials will support all Norwalk residents. And who is funding the mosque, A few Norwalk residents, or outsiders ? Even in wealthy Darien we wouldn’t expect a 100 families to finance a new house of worship costing upwards of $10 million dollars. On the surface it sure looks like a massive regional facility financed by outside interests is being planned for a well established residential community which already has traffic from a nearby school and college.

    Why would any religious group using outside finances seek to impose a huge overpowering edifice in a community that doesn’t want it located there ? One that would utterly transform a well established residential community ? Where else in America have just 100 claimed families sought to establish a compound costing upwards of $10 million ? And continues to be used only by the claimed 100 families ? Surely there’s more to this story.

  2. John Hamlin

    It makes no sense to build such a huge structure in a residential community. What do we want to become? The discrimination issue sounds like a red herring. Or an attempt to guilt the politically correct. And if our zoning doesn’t prohibit it, there’s a problem with zoning.

  3. Piberman

    The sheer size of the facility ensures a large congregation from out of town with attendant traffic to match from a structure designed to attract a regional audience to Norwalk. Plus the subsequent building of a large private school on adjoining properties. Together the neighborhood is utterly transformed with major traffic densities and lowered property values. The silence of City officials to these realities is deafening. By any standard the huge mosque is objectionable. Even if it is financed by outsiders. And mostly used by those outside the City.

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