Details of Sterling Heights mosque lawsuit settlement released

Agreement allows AICC to build mosque

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. - After a lawsuit alleged religious intolerance against the city of Sterling Heights over its refusal to build a mosque, the two sides have reached an agreement.

Sterling Heights officials agreed to a lawsuit settlement Tuesday night after a fiery City Council meeting.

The agreement allows a mosque to be built on 15 Mile Road. There were concerns about parking and the height of the mosque, but the U.S. attorney said there were constitutional issues regarding the refusal to allow construction.

The judge in the federal courthouse needs to sign off on the agreement, but the planning to build the mosque is already underway.

"Ignorance coupled with government power can be very difficult to overcome," said Mo Abdrabboh, the attorney for the American Islamic Community Center, or AICC.

Attorneys for the AICC believe the settlement is a win for everyone.

"They feel really good," attorney Azzam Elder said. "They feel victorious. They feel that from an American perspective, it's a victory for all Americans, especially vulnerable Americans."

In 2015, the group applied to build a mosque on Mile Mile Road between Ryan and Mound roads.

Sterling Heights officials said the building would be too tall and wouldn't have enough parking, so city denied the permits to build the mosque.

Members of the AICC said they were forced to file a lawsuit after trying to negotiate for close to a year.

"We tried, we met with the city and we got nowhere," Abdrabboh said.

The U.S. attorney also filed a separate lawsuit, saying the city was being intolerant and violating religious land-use laws.

On Tuesday night, the Sterling Heights City Council voted to approve the settlement and $350,000 for their insurance deductible.

The settlement says the group will be allowed to build a mosque, but the dome will be reduced from 66 to 61 feet tall. There can't be any outside sound amplification and no street parking will be allowed. Shuttles must be provided for overflow parking.

A councilman said they resolved the issues, so fighting the lawsuit was pointless.

"Therefore, there was no point in incurring additional costs through a prolonged litigation that would only cost the taxpayers additional money," Doug Skyniarz said.

But many of the taxpayers were not happy.

"The people protested over the summer, and they're the ones who pay the taxes," resident Jennifer Abed said. "They're the ones that have to live around this place and they want to be heard. They don't want to be shut up by anybody."

The U.S. attorney said if it had to, it could have proven religious intolerance based on some of the statements that were made, but officials said they're happy it didn't get to that point.

The city will be keeping a close eye on any incidents of hate or intolerance that could occur.

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