Archive for the ‘Religious Institutions’ Category

Department of Justice Investigates Lilburn Mosque Controversy

The U.S. Department of Justice launched a civil rights investigation of the Lilburn mosque controversy that began when the Lilburn City Council voted 4 to 0 to deny a rezoning request by the local Muslim congregation of Dar-E-Abbas for a 20,000-square-foot mosque, cemetery and gymnasium on about 8 acres at U.S. 29 and Hood Road

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne confirmed that the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division is investigating the city of Lilburn’s treatment of a local mosque seeking to expand.

. . .

The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division issued a statement to Channel 2 saying “The department has an ongoing investigation and declines further comment.”. . .

[Attorney for the Mosque] said one of four things could result from the DOJ investigation:

–DOJ could do nothing

–DOJ could intervene as a party in a current lawsuit

–DOJ could file a friend of the court brief

–DOJ could file it’s own lawsuit

 

 

Lilburn City Council Deadlocked On Proposed Mosque

Following a unanimous denial by its Planning Commission, the Lilburn City Council deadlocked at 2 in favor and 2 opposed to the rezoning request that would have allowed Dar-E-Abbas to construct a 20,000-square-foot mosque on four acres at U.S. 29 and Hood Road.  The tie vote equals a denial and rejection of the rezoning application.

The issue will now proceed back to federal court for a judge to decide.

Lilburn Planning Commission Rejects Mosque

Citing feasibility, the Lilburn Planning Commission voted 4-0 to recommend denial of the rezoning request by Dar-E-Abbas for a 20,000-square-foot mosque on four acres at U.S. 29 and Hood Road.  According to the AJC, the Planning Commission members took issue with everything from buffers and parking to the potential for noise and water runoff.

“This board does not change zoning on the flip of a coin,” Commissioner Mike Hart told more than 70 residents at city hall. “We have to change zoning understanding that the project will work, and this site plan doesn’t communicate that this project will work.”

“All of the discussion about compliance with traffic and hydraulics and buffers and setbacks can be dealt with in the permitting stage,” Dillard said. “The bottom line is, by denying it, they are still taking away the constitutional right that this congregation has to worship in free and peaceful assembly and that’s wrong, and I’m very disappointed in the planning commission.”

The rezoning application and the Planning Commission recommendation now head to the City Council for a final vote.

This recent Planning Commission decision is the latest in a yearlong dispute over the planned Mosque.  In November 2009, the Lilburn City Council denied a similar rezoning request sought Dar-E-Abbas, which led to  a federal religious discrimination lawsuit against the city.  The lawsuit is on hold through January.

Lilburn Mosque Proposal Part Of Nationwide Controversy

From Wisconsin, Tennessee to New York, other communities across the country are in heated controversies over proposed mosques – just like Lilburn.  Religious schools, universities and campuses have long faced questioning and even challenging neighbors when planning a new project – parking, traffic, noise, even football stadium lighting are typical voiced concerns.  But, the recent controversies challenge the purpose of the proposed development – Islam itself.

In Lilburn, the City Council denied a rezoning request by the local Muslim congregation of Dar-E-Abbas for a 20,000-square-foot mosque, cemetery and gymnasium on about 8 acres at U.S. 29 and Hood Road.  The mosque filed a lawsuit appealing the denial.  However, the Court stayed the litigation at the request of both sides in January.

Sandy Springs Conditionally Approves Rezoning For Church Of Scientology

Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos cast the tie-breaking vote approving rezoning of Church of Scientology’s property at 5395 Roswell Road, but at 12,000 square feet less than the church wanted.

The rezoning allows the church use of 32,053 existing square feet in the former realty office at the corner of Glenridge Drive, but was not what the church wanted.  The church wanted to convert a 43,916 square feet underground, 30-car parking lot for its sanctuary.  Neighbors and city staff opposed enclosure of the underground parking lot on the basis that the church could not provide the requisite number of parking spaces for the larger space.

“The 32,000-square foot limit wouldn’t work for the church and the rights they have for religious exercises,” church attorney Woody Galloway said during his rebuttal of opposition speakers. “It would hamper them to the point they couldn’t use the site. 32,000 square feet is not at all acceptable.”

The applicant has a “great need” for space, Galloway said, a characteristic of Scientology which was at the heart of the debate.

On the one hand, the owner is a religious entity, and other churches in Sandy Springs have lower parking ratios.

“You cannot discriminate on the basis of religion. It’s what this country was founded on,” Galloway said.

However, city Department of Community Development staff determined the way the space is used is more like an office building or a community college and calculated its parking needs accordingly.

“The applicant said it is a non-traditional church with a main focus on smaller meeting rooms,” said opposition attorney Brian Daughdrill of northwest Atlanta law firm Roberts and Daughdrill. “It was appropriate for staff to analyze it as they did.”