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.
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.
The Muslim congregation of Dar-E-Abbas will sue Lilburn for violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and other provisions of the state and federal constitutions arising out of the Lilburn City Council denied a rezoning request by Dar-E-Abbas for a 20,000-square-foot mosque, cemetery and gymnasium on about 8 acres at U.S. 29 and Hood Road.
“We think the city clearly discriminated against these people, particularly in light of the fact they’ve worshipped on this land 12 to 13 years,” [Doug Dillard, attorney for the congregation of Dar-E-Abbas] said Wednesday.
In a 4 to 0 vote the Lilburn 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.
More than 400 Lilburn residents attended the Council meeting to oppose the expansion of the eleven year Dar-E-Abbas. The vote will likely not end the dispute.
Doug Dillard, the congregation’s attorney, called the decision “arbitrary and capricious” and plans to file a lawsuit against the city within 30 days.
“The basis of this motion to deny had no basis in fact,” Dillard said. “My recommendation is we file suit and challenge the legality of what the council did tonight.”
In 2007, Lilburn tightened its liquor ordinance to counter Sports Fan Bar and Grill. Lilburn leaders linked karaoke, darts, pool, trivia, and other forms of “interactive” entertainment with crime. Lilburn banned all such entertainment in any establishment selling alcohol. Now two years later, Lilburn reverses itself changing its liquor ordinance to again allow such entertainment.
“Lilburn has matured, and we want to keep it vibrant,” said Mayor Diana Preston. “Our focus is keeping our business community strong and that means a diversity of businesses.”
And, she said, Lilburn — which bans bars — wants to accommodate its young adults, who enjoy pub atmospheres.
And the crime that will follow?
Preston said that’s no longer a concern given the number of police officers and the creation of the alcohol review board.