NORWALK, Conn. – An attorney repeated his point several times to the Norwalk Zoning Commission on Wednesday night: There is no legal reason to turn down an application to build a mosque in a residential Norwalk neighborhood.
"The opponents, respectfully, would have you deny this application based on a finding (I guess) that it's too big, when it meets and complies with all the zoning requirements you have established for the size and structure on this parcel, in this zone," said attorney John Fallon. He represents the Al Madany Islamic Center in its quest to build a mosque at 127 Fillow St.
Commissioners looked down from the stage of Concert Hall, hearing only from Fallon and Michael Galante, because all public comment was closed. At the conclusion of the presentation, an attorney representing the Fillow Ridge and Stonegate Condominium complexes asked to address the points that had been made. Joe Santo, chairman of the commission, denied the request.
Fallon presented two case studies to support the idea that turning down the application would be illegal. He and Galante also called into question the accuracy of a traffic study presented by opponents, saying that David Spear, a traffic engineer hired by neighbors, left out many key facts.
The commissioners "have seen dozens and dozens of traffic studies," Santo said, and were aware that studies would favor the person or group that paid for them. "We are allowed under statutes to pick and choose what we believe," he said. "I think that's where we'll begin our deliberations."
The proposed mosque is a 27,000-square-foot facility that would include six classrooms, a library, a community room and a gymnasium/multipurpose room in addition to the prayer hall, which is under a dome. It would feature a 90-foot-tall minaret and would be on 1.56 acres.
"What we propose is consistent with the precedent that has always been followed in this community by this commission and its predecessors," Fallon said. "... Obviously, I'm the advocate. But I say this sincerely, I cannot see one compelling public basis or one basis under your own promulgated regulations to warrant your denial of this congregation's right to finally have a home, a place of worship, in their city."