Al Falah Center Files Suit Against Bridgewater

The center claims the township's new zoning ordinance violates religious freedom.

The Al Falah Center filed a suit against Bridgewater Tuesday, alleging that the township's new zoning ordinance that requires houses of worship to be on major roads prevents members of the Muslim community from exercising their freedom of religion.

According to a release from the center Wednesday, the suit is seeking to require the town to allow the Al Falah Center to move forward with plans to renovate the former Redwood Inn on Mountain Top Road to be used as a mosque and community center.

The plan for the mosque was brought before the planning board in February, but was sent over to the zoning board after the township approved a zoning ordinance that requires houses of worship and other buildings to have entrance on major roads, of which Mountain Top Road is not one.

With the , the mosque was no longer a permitted use on the property and required a variance from the zoning board.

Residents had expressed concern over the proposed mosque in several meetings, saying that it would increase traffic in the area, and that they would prefer to see it built on a more major road like Route 22.

Supporters of the Al Falah Center have presented suspicions about why the ordinance was approved so quickly after the application for the mosque had already been filed.

According to the press release, the complaint was filed in federal district court in New Jersey Tuesday, and also alleges that the new zoning ordinance discriminates against the Muslim community on the basis of religion.

After searching for a suitable location for the mosque for years, the release says, Muslims from Bridgewater and surrounding communities found the former Redwood Inn, and developed a plan with township officials for renovating the building.

According to the release, the renovation included creating a place for a house of worship, day care, religious school and community center.

But, the release says, hundreds of people showed up at planning board meetings, after what it calls an "anti-Muslim Internet campaign," to protest the project and "the township suddenly changed its course."

The release states that the township then illegally rushed through a change to the zoning rules, citing traffic concerns—which are not mentioned as the reason for the zoning changes in the township's documents.

The release also says that the complaint alleges the township violated the Al Falah Center's constitutional rights under the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment in approving the zoning ordinance. The complaint also cites violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, according to the release.

Prophet2 April 27, 2011 at 09:32 PM
Concerned about traffic? The facility there has been operating over 40 years as a banquit facility, using the same roads, with no problems! Oh I shold menton there is a school down the road that generates small and large vehicular traffic all through that area...on a daily basis..no problem with that? It sounds like they just dont want Muslins.... I welcome my brothers to warship in our community...peace to you, and may your lawsuit be successful!!! We, in America, are a nation of laws, and Bridgewater Township must understand that it also must obey them. Fortunately our great judicial system will look at it in ther proper light and you WILL PREVAIL!
Prophet2 April 27, 2011 at 09:44 PM
Sorry about the spelling...
Michele April 28, 2011 at 12:21 AM
I used to live on that road. In no way did the Redwood Inn ever create a great deal of traffic; even in at the height of its popularity, it never created a traffic problem due to its hours and relatively low use. However, I would like to see a properly constructed traffic estimate for the new mosque. If it is similar to the Redwood Inn traffic detail, then they would have a good case. But my guess is that it would bring in more traffic. The school down the road mentioned by the previous poster is on a much bigger road, so there really is no comparison between the two areas. To use the school as an example of bias and bigotry here is unfounded and unfair.
Meyer Lansky April 28, 2011 at 12:31 AM
Oh, stop th drama, put your big boy pants on and go find a new house of worship. All I hear is racism yet your group seems to be the only racists. Sue the town, since you aren't established, there is no violation of law, your lawyers just want to bend you over and treat you like Americans. You all said you want to be part of the community, this isnt how to do it.
Gerianne April 28, 2011 at 03:53 PM
As I write 5his there are at least 2 larger buildings, with more ade2uate parking and safer egress and ingress directly located on Rte 22. The fotmer Coutier Nrews building and I believe the Bank of America Builidng. What is wrogn with keepiong an existing quit neighborhood as it is. Or perhaps there is an an activie search for areas not currently housing people of the muslim faith.?
BucaBuddy99 April 28, 2011 at 09:40 PM
Whether or not racism is playing a role in this debate is impossible to prove. What is easy to prove is the potential impact from anticipated traffic during all hours. For those of us who travel Route 202/206 frequently, we all noticed the dramatic increase in traffic caused by the new Hindu temple opposite Brown Road. Since the temple paid for a new entrance as well as turn lanes the back up at Brown Road is gone but there is still significant traffic on the road with people driving all different speeds since the speed limit signs number 2 from the Commons Mall to the temple! I have nothing against any religion choosing to worship but as Gerianne mentioned, if there are suitable alternatives, why push so hard for the one location that is causing so much challenge? Perhaps the Al Falah Center wants to make a statement rather than worship? Whenever people are posed with a challenge there are choices: 1) Do nothing; 2) Stand your ground and fight the change; 3) Look for a mutually beneficial solution. Clearly the Al Falah Center is choosing #2 which suggests ulterior motives to just finding a suitable location to worship. Let them continue to fight and make the lawyers happy with collecting more and more fees. In the end, they will be the only winners.
Peter Skeels May 03, 2011 at 11:19 AM
I'm annoyed at the accusations of racism. It seems people want to jump to conclusions when they aren't getting their way. For me, it's all about the traffic. When the first sets of plans were revealed, the facility was going to have a multitude of uses that will have traffic impacts at all different times. I have lived on this road for more than ten years and the Inn has not been a problem because it either hasn't been open or it wasn't a popular destination. The traffic on Papen is still pretty heavy and the number of close calls is only increasing. I will welcome their facility in Bridgewater, just not in an area that cannot support it safely.
sk8boardmom May 03, 2011 at 04:00 PM
The Al Falah spin machine is busy these days, and those who didn't attend the town meetings (as I did), are being misled by a media campaign which is full of hearsay and inaccuracies, and is labeling residents with valid traffic concerns racists. I'd like to clarify a few things: 1. Gov. Christy and the NJ legislature gave towns one year to make zoning changes after receipt of planning board applications, as was approved by the NJ Supreme Court many years ago, and has been the custom in NJ for decades. Bridgewater validly enacted this ordinance in the time frame permitted. 2. The town of Bridgewater has a responsibility to manage traffic volumes, and require high intensity use facilities be located on roads that can safely handle large vehicle volumes. 3. RLUIPA protects religious groups from being denied all access to a jurisdiction, but does not give religious groups a right to locate their house of worship anywhere they choose, no matter what. Granting superior rights to a religious group is unconstitutional as applied to area residents and everyone else. 4. There are abundant properties in Bridgewater that meet the ordinance requirements for a house of worship. 5. At town meetings, residents of Bridgewater were welcoming and respectful, even offering help finding a suitable site. Message to Al Falah -- lawsuits don't make good neighbors. Pursue another site -- that will be a win/win for all!
Sharyn May 03, 2011 at 05:02 PM
Margo May 05, 2011 at 02:27 AM
anyone but native americans are guests, so let's be civil.. with respect to the "other" issue, if residents are against the center, maybe it's time to move on..
Lisa May 20, 2011 at 03:45 AM
I feel that the issue is best handled in a matter that shows fairness and openness while at the same turn upholding what is in the best matter of the environmental area and surroundings of the proposal. It seems that a full environmental impact study has been done on the Redwood Inn site.. Possibly there are rare owls or even frogs or turtles residing there. It could take a long time to figure out exactly what animals live on that property and how their way of live could be jeaopordized especially by putting in a large parking area. It would be quicker and less complicated to simply move the temple to another site along a major thorofare in the area.
Gerianne May 21, 2011 at 06:25 PM
Thank you for the common sense! Having been at the Redwood for several functions following snow storms and icy conditions I often wondered what would happen if there were to be an emergency on the road. Just as good fences make good neighbors, pushy people make poor ones. Grow up, and find a more suitable location in the area. I am so sick of being accused of racism every time anyone disagrees with what is said or done by anyone with different viewpoints. It is getting old fast. And those making the loudest noise do not even live in the area.
Gerianne May 21, 2011 at 06:31 PM
Whene I arrive somewhere and am obviously not welcomed, I generally find someplace else to be my comfort zone. Does this not make sense? The location is simply not suitable for a facility that large and busy. The Temple on Rte. 206 made accomodations to suit the residential area and is now accessed by a main highway, why is this even an issue. Bridgewater has houses of worship for just about every faith I can think of off the top of my head, why are we residents being accused of racism simply because we want to continue to live in an area that affords peace and quiet, which is what attracted us in the first place, and for which we pay property taxes. I don't recall anyone at the meetings indicating that there should not be a facility of this nature, it was and is a simple matter of a suitable location.


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