Meriden City Council agrees to terms in mosque settlement

Meriden City Council agrees to terms in mosque settlement

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MERIDEN — The City Council voted unanimously to accept the terms of a proposed agreement to settle a federal complaint filed in 2019 by the leaders of Omar Islamic Center after the city’s Planning Commission denied the mosque’s plan to relocate to a vacant building at 999 Research Parkway. 

Details on the proposed settlement were not made available on Tuesday. The council, which had met Monday night via video conference, discussed the matter in closed executive session before reconvening in open session. Members of the council did not make any public statements before the vote. 

Attempts to reach an Omar Islamic Center representative and Refai Arefin, the East Berlin-based attorney representing the mosque in its complaint, were unsuccessful on Tuesday. 

The mosque filed the federal complaint saying its religious rights had been violated by the Planning Commission’s “burdensome, discriminatory and unreasonable land use regulations and intentional conduct that has prohibited” it from operating in the Research Parkway building. 

The Planning Commission in June had reversed its previous denial of the mosque application, granting approval “subject to the terms and conditions” of the proposed settlement, stating in its written motion the commission approves the center’s use of the property as a place of worship.

The approval will take effect the same date the settlement agreement becomes effective.

The City Council, prior to the Planning Commission’s vote, had authorized up to $45,000 to settle the suit. The council at the time also strongly recommended the Planning Commission reverse its denial of the application. 

The Middletown-based Omar Islamic Center submitted an application to relocate its mosque to 999 Research Parkway in March 2019.

The two-story building, which was built in 1991 but is now vacant, would house the mosque on the first floor, while the second floor would be used as non-tax exempt office space. 

CIty Manager Timothy Coon declined to share details of the proposed settlement, which would be negotiated out of court and entered through court order as a consent decree. Coon said the settlement still awaits approval from both parties and the court. 

Coon said he expects a resolution of the matter “in the near future.” Federal court records show a settlement conference was held on Oct. 5, with an upcoming conference to be held by telephone set for Nov. 5. 

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, determining whether parties are in compliance with a consent decree would be subject to periodic assessment by those parties, without court involvement. If the defendant is found to have breached the agreement, “the government may file a lawsuit to enforce” it. 


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