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Muslim community receives unfavorable ruling in ongoing zoning dispute

3/1/2012 | Construction Blog, Real Estate Blog

A Chester County Muslim congregation seeking to build a retirement community for aging members of its community recently received a blow to its efforts when a Chester County Court judge ruled against it in an ongoing zoning dispute with the East Fallowfield Township Board of Supervisors.

The dispute itself arose back in 2009, when plans for the retirement development were already years in the works. Township supervisors apparently opposed the project on the grounds that the addition of high-density housing on the proposed lots would harm the integrity of the area’s rural charm.

The congregation itself springs from the work of a Sri Lankan man who came to West Philadelphia’s University City back in 1971, preaching the tradition of Sufism and gaining hundreds of adherents. After his death in 1986, the community dispersed but continued to remain close to its mosque in Wynnefield. In the last decade, East Fallowfield’s population has increased 44 percent, to 7,400.

Township members are concerned that the community’s increased population growth and the proposal for a retirement community for the congregation will threaten the appeal of the community.

Two years of attempts to compromise have turned up nothing, despite the fact that the parcel of land proposed for the project sits in a special development district designed to accommodate construction of the retirement homes.

The judge in the case ruled that the zoning board had ignored important parts of the zoning code in allowing the congregation’s development to proceed as far as it did, and denied the congregation’s request that the suit be dismissed.

The congregation, according to sources, plans to appeal the decision, but a decision is likely a ways off.

Disputes such as this are a familiar occurrence when it comes to zoning and development projects. Those involved in these types of situations should consult a knowledgeable real estate attorney to help them secure their rights, take advantage of available privileges, and make the best strategic moves.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Major setback for Muslim retirement community plan in Chesco,” Anthony Campisi, February 27, 2012.