Wednesday, January 31, 2007
WAYNE -- An Albanian group's plan to build a mosque and community center has been denied by the Planning Board, leading township officials to consider public takeover of the property as open space.
The group has spent four years before the Planning Board seeking approvals to build on 11 hilly acres it owns at Colfax Road and Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike.
...Township officials have consistently said the issue is not religion and that their sole concern is to preserve the wooded tract because its rocky slopes make it unsuitable for building.
"It's the poster child for a property that should be preserved for open space," Mayor Scott Rumana said. He said township officials will look into condemnation procedures to acquire the property.
Aside from environmental issues, officials said the inclusion of the community center caused the overall proposal to fall short of the number of parking spaces required by the township.
The Planning Board vetoed the project, 7-0, last week. It will adopt a final resolution at a future meeting. The Albanian group will have 45 days to file an appeal to the council.
The decision concludes deliberations that took place at 19 meetings over about 44 hours, said Tim Collins, board member. "In my nine years on the board, that's the longest case I've ever sat on," said Collins. "We did not vote against them locating in Wayne. We voted against the site that was before us."
"This has nothing to do with religion and has everything to do with the sensitivity of the site," Collins said. "If they came back before us with another site, we would review it with open eyes."