Most townships and cities have zoning laws to protect residential areas and to control things like for use in areas where families live. In general, when a business buys a parcel of land they agree to use it for the designated reasons as outlined by the. This might, for example, mean only buying commercial property that is zoned for a certain use of shopping or services. The protections afforded to residential areas by these zoning laws were blown out of the water recently in a small township when the local council decided they were taking over.
Even though they bought three pieces of land in a residential area, they were going to push their way into building an enormous mosque in the area. There did not seem to be much care for anyone living around the proposed site, for the families that might be impacted by the spike in traffic or other strains it put on the area.
Because the land that the group bought was not zoned for that use, the local city council of Bensalem denied their application. Instead of looking for land in an area that was already approved for this type of use, those wanting to build the mosque went to the(DOJ). This movement ended in legal action as described in a recent report:
“The Justice Department and Bensalem Township have reached an agreement to resolve allegations that the township violated the law when it denied zoning approval for a mosque two years ago. As part of the agreement, the Bensalem Masjid will be permitted to build the mosque on Hulmeville Road.
The Bensalem Masjid sought to build a mosque on three adjoining parcels of land, but the application was denied by the Zoning Hearing Board after several public hearings in 2014.
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the township in July 2016.
The complaint alleged that the Bensalem Township’s denial of a variance imposed a “substantial burden on the Bensalem Masjid’s religious exercise, treated the Bensalem Masjid less favorably than the township treated nonreligious assemblies and discriminated against the Bensalem Masjid on the basis of religion,” according to the Justice Department.
The lawsuit also alleged that the township placed “unreasonable limitations” on religious assemblies generally through its land use regulations.”
This outcome did nothing to address the concerns of the locals who expressed their fears about the massive increase in traffic if their neighborhoods and their ability to enjoy their homes. There are also questions tied to the drop in property values as the area is also impacted. Each time anyone from outside of the community raised a concern to support following the zoning laws, they were dismissed. According to a report from the DOJ:
“At public hearings, zoning board members expressed concerns about parking and traffic, as well as the size of the proposed mosque, which is located in a residential area. DOJ argued these concerns were frivolous, especially because the board previously issued such variances to other religious groups and commercial interests.
Some 200 families belong to the congregation, called Bensalem Masjid, which currently rents space at a local fire hall. Members of the masjid say space is insufficient to their liturgical and spiritual needs.
The town has granted another congregation, Faith Unity, a permit to build a mosque in the township.”
With two different mosques in this small winning suits via the DOJ, it seems the residents of the area are the only people not being heard. Their concerns are not being acknowledged, and they are simply being forced to live in a mosque or now two being built in their neighborhood.
In each of these cases and many others like them, it seems that the local community has more than enough money to force their way into building wherever they want via expensive lawsuits through the DOJ. There are no protections for the families the bought home in quiet residential areas that are now clogged with traffic and overwhelmed by the service demands of the two new mosques. In this case, the general public are the losers as they watch their communities turn into busy business use areas.
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