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Norwalk Mosque 'a Giant in a Small Neighborhood'

NORWALK, Conn. – The case against a mosque with a towering 90-foot minaret was laid out Wednesday night by concerned Norwalk neighbors and their lawyer in a crowded Concert Hall.

"They are basically paving this lot over," Attorney Marc Grenier said of the plans submitted by the Al Madany Islamic Center for 127 Fillow St. "The scale of this project is too dense for this 1.5 acres of land."

Farhan Memon, a leader in the effort to build the mosque, and John Fallon, lawyer for the Al Madany Islamic Center, sat in the front row listening as Grenier, a traffic engineer and residents of the area told members of the Zoning Commission why the mosque did not conform to regulations. Up to 400 people sat behind them, some wearing green T-shirts in support of the mosque, some wearing yellow buttons to indicate opposition.

At a hearing April 4, Michael Galante had used traffic figures based on the number of people currently using the Al Madany Islamic Center. Wednesday night David Spear of DLS Traffic Engineering LLC presented a study based on the Windsor Islamic Center. His figures for increased traffic were 2.7 times higher than those Galante came up with.

Spear said the facilities are similar. The Windsor mosque has a gross building area of 12,872 square feet, while the Norwalk mosque is planned at 15,802 square feet. The prayer hall in Windsor is 4,000 square feet, and the Norwalk prayer hall is planned at 2,950 square feet.

Spear said the study showed that while traffic trickles into a mosque before the prayer hour, everyone leaves at once when it concludes. He said that called the accuracy of Galante's study into question, and said the number of vehicles would overwhelm an area where people routinely exceed the 25 mile per hour speed limit.

The 89 parking spaces planned for the Norwalk mosque were painted as inadequate; Spear said that a study done in Windsor showed that it would need at least 237 parking spaces.

Grenier echoed the point. "We do not believe that the applicant has provided enough parking spaces under the regulations," he said. "The regulations say that when one establishment has two or more distinct uses, each such use shall be measured separately for the purpose of determining the number of parking and loading spaces per car."

The pair also said the intersection sightlines proposed for a driveway exiting the property do not meet Department of Public Works standards, falling short by 33 feet for drivers headed south on Fillow Street.

Six residents of the neighborhood also spoke against the mosque. "We are dismayed to think a huge building could occupy our corner, and our favorite landmark, the little red house, could be nothing more than an appendage to a massive building," said Roy Mosser, who has lived at 115 Fillow St. for 12 years. "The current park-like setting could become a parking lot."

Neighbors commented that their property values had already dropped because of the proposed mosque. Grenier said the proposal called for a "giant building in a small-scale neighborhood" and urged the commission to consider the consistency of the look of the area.

Fallon will present a rebuttal next Wednesday, April 25, as the commission holds a final hearing on the topic at 7 p.m. in Concert Hall.

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