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.
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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
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.
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.
Without officially resigning, embattled Gwinnett County Commissioner Kevin Kenerly voluntarily suspended himself until the charges have been resolved or until Kenerly’s term ends at the end of December. Kenerly is under indictment for allegedly accepting $1 million in bribes related to County land purchases and failing to disclose a relationship with a private developer seeking rezoning from the County.
Kenerly was facing increasing criticism from voters.
“That’s what he needed to do,” said Steve Ramey of the Founding Fathers Tea Party Patriots. “He should have done it a long time ago.”
James Bell, co-founder of the Georgia Taxpayers Alliance, said Kenerly’s presence on the commission was a distraction.
“I can’t say I’m happy, but I’m pleased,” he said. “Kenerly did the right thing in stepping down.”
Fellow alliance member Ron Williams agreed.
“I think it was a little late,” he said, “but it was the right thing to do.”
The AJC reports that Suwanee wants the last 4 acre residential holdout in the Suwanee Gateway on four-lane Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road to be preserved as park land to save old oak trees and project a positive image for the commercial corridor off I-85. The problem, Suwanee does not have any intention to purchase the property. Instead, Suwanee development staff recommend denying a rezoning application and special use permit for the property that would allow a gas station and car wash. Such action would require the elderly owners to permanently maintain the property as residential, even though they no longer live there.
Attorney Michael Sullivan, who represents QuikTrip seeking the rezoning said:
“It’s unfair for this city to designate land as a park if the city has no intention of purchasing it,” Sullivan said. “All that does is force an elderly couple to pay taxes and maintenance on land they don’t have the benefit of living on.”
While city staff oppose the rezoning, Mayor Dave Williams supports rezoning of the property, but has not made a decision on the special-use permit to allow the car wash.
“Whenever you have a rezoning, there are going to be some people opposed to any change,” Williams said. “In this case, the people objecting want it to remain exactly as it is today but aren’t interested in buying the property to protect it. That is a solution I would welcome.”
In 2008, City of Sandy Springs rezoned 8 acres of land near the intersection of Long Island and Lake Forrest drives to allow Holy Spirit Preparatory School to build a football and soccer stadium and a school administrative building. Long Island Neighborhoods Coalition sued opposing the rezoning and the construction.
Last week, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams upheld the City’s rezoning and dismissed the neighborhood’s complaint. The neighborhood has 30 days to seek an appeal.
Atlanta City Council approved a new zoning ordinance (SPI-9) for Buckhead covering a significant part of the Buckhead commercial area generally west of Piedmont Avenue and north of Pharr Road.
According to the Buckhead Community Improvement District, the new zoning ordinance positions Buckhead to become “a more walkable, urban community enriched with public art and parks, wide sidewalks, greenspace, transportation options, and outdoor dining, all designed to have international appeal.” The ordinance defines street treatments, facades, sidewalk widths, signage, greenspace, and other public elements intended to create a cohesive feel to the community and help developers position their developments with consideration of public space.
You can review the approved ordinance here.