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On April 3, The Norwalk Hour ran another article about the settlement negotiations that the city, now under the leadership of Mayor Rilling, is moving toward in the lawsuit brought by the Al-Madany Mosque group alleging racial and religious discrimination.
Having been through the entire set of hearings and listening to experts and neighbors testify, I don’t believe that there was any such discrimination. I would, therefore, not be in favor of settling such a case.
The city acted appropriately in denying this application based on the grand magnitude of the project for a small lot in a dangerous residential intersection. The Al-Madany group is now seeking to intimidate the city and its residents with this lawsuit instead of seeking an adequate compromise.
Interestingly, my opinion seems to be shared, just in a different venue, by our city’s new corporation counsel. Mario Coppola, who was appointed by Mayor Rilling and apparently directed to settle this case rather than fight on for the residents of West Norwalk, is, as a private attorney, representing a group looking to stop a synagogue from being put into a part of Greenwich.
The synagogue in question, as proposed, would be 2 1/2 stories high and house several worship areas, classrooms and offices. This is not that different from the proposed size of the accessory building alone at the Fillow Street location. Therefore, I hope Mr. Coppola won’t allow that accessory building to be built in the West Norwalk area, along with the primary mosque structure, without significant restrictions. I am sure he must be planning on pushing for similar restrictions here. Maybe we just have not heard the details yet.
In Greenwich, as in Norwalk, residents say they are not opposed to the use of the development, but rather its size and scope. In Greenwich, Coppola urged the commission to impose conditions such as a minimum 40 percent reduction in size, a new driveway configuration, limited use of a social hall and written reports on anticipated demand, lighting, signage and off-site parking.
Considering that the parcel of land in Greenwich is 33 percent larger than the Fillow Street location, and that attorney Coppola is pushing for a 40 percent reduction in the size of the synagogue, I can only imagine there will be similar conditions asked for here. I hope that the citizens of Norwalk will be benefiting from the same impressive defense against overdevelopment that his other paying clients in Greenwich seem to be getting.