Bridgewater Hires Experts for Its Mosque Litigation

Bridgewater shoulders additional litigation costs after approving ordinance requiring houses of worship to have entrance on main road.

With depositions continuing concerning the litigation between Bridgewater Township and the Al Falah Center regarding the center's efforts to renovate a former inn as a mosque, the council approved a resolution Thursday to hire more professionals in the township's defense.

The township opted to authorize a contract with Dennis Kowal, of Dennis Kowal Architects, for an amount not to exceed $28,000.

Township attorney William Savo said the costs will be paid for by the township's insurance company that is already paying for the defense. "The team evaluated the Redwood Inn, but they need an estimator," he said.

The litigation process has been continuing for more than a year, since the Al Falah Center filed suit against the township, planning board and township council in April 2011.

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 2011, 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.

These are continued costs as part of the litigation between the two entities.

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.

The complaint was filed in federal district court in New Jersey, and alleges that the new zoning ordinance discriminates against the Muslim community on the basis of religion.

In July, both parties said depositions are continuing, and township administrator James Naples said they are on track for a trial near the end of the year.


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