Judge sides with Alpharetta in mosque fight

by: Mike Petchenik Updated:

ALPHARETTA, Ga.,None - A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the city of Alpharetta didn't violate religious land use laws when it denied a mosque's expansion, according to a ruling obtained by Channel 2's Mike Petchenik.
 
The Islamic Center of North Fulton sued the city over its 2010 denial of a request to expand its facility on Rucker Road.  At the time, council members cited a supposed agreement the center had made with a neighboring subdivision that it wouldn't expand.
 
While Senior U.S. District Judge J. Owen Forrester found no concrete evidence that such an agreement existed, he ruled there wasn't a "substantial burden" put on the center because of the denial.
 
“Simply because a religious organization’s facility is too small does not give the organization ‘free reign to construct on its lot a building of whatever size it chooses, regardless of limitations imposed by the zoning ordinances,'" Forrester wrote in his decision.

Forrester also concluded there was no evidence Alpharetta treated the center any differently than it would other religious institutions, and therefore was not guilty of discrimination.

The lawsuit caught the eye of the United States Justice Department, which opened an investigation into the city's decision, and garnered support from the Anti-Defamation League.

An attorney for the center, Andrea Cantrell Jones, told Petchenik Wednesday she would consult with her clients about their next move.
 
The city of Alpharetta sent a statement late Thursday afternoon about the decision, saying, "The Judge’s ruling yesterday granted summary judgment to the City on all of the Islamic Center’s claims except certain state law declaratory judgment claims, over which the federal court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. As the City’s position from the outset was that this case was about land use, not religion, the City is pleased with the Judge’s ruling and looks forward to the conclusion of this matter.”



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