Somerset Court Denies Muslim Center

May 25, 2006

Source: The Reporter

On May 25, 2006 The Reporter reported, "Upholding a decision by the borough's Board of Adjustment, a Superior Court Judge last week denied the Muslim Center of Somerset a conditional use variance. The ruling is the latest in a step of obstacles the center has faced in its quest to run operations out of a small house on Southside Avenue. Had the judge approved the request, his decision would have cleared the way for the county's first mosque. Marguerite Schaffer, an attorney for the center, said her clients are now considering their legal options. 'We could appeal the decision,' Schaffer said. 'We have 45 days to do that. Alternately, we could revise the application and go back (to the board).' The center acquired the Southside Avenue property in 1998 and had used the facility as a home for its imam -- or spiritual leader -- and as a place for its five daily prayer services. When the borough realized the center was in violation of parking ordinances, the center applied for variances and site plan approval, which included a proposal for a small expansion. Since then, the center has been renting space at the Redwood Inn in Bridgewater and the Manville Elks for its services. The board rejected the application last June, but when the center sued the borough and board last year, Superior Court Judge Peter Buchsbaum ordered the board to revisit the application, this time considering its beneficial use. But even with conditions in place, the board found the mosque put too much of a burden on the residential neighborhood and denied the application for a second time."