Muslim group files suit against city of Bayonne


BAYONNE — Bayonne Muslims, the group that applied for and was denied a zoning application to convert an abandoned warehouse on 109 East 24th St. in that town into a mosque, has sued the city of Bayonne and the Bayonne Planning Board for First and Fourteenth Amendment violation, lawyers say. The suit aims to challenge the denial of their application.
The Bayonne Zoning Board held its final meeting and public hearing on Monday, March 6 where Bayonne Muslims was seeking land use variances in required parking spaces, in curb width, and a buffer zone. While a majority voted in favor of the application, their request for a conditional use variance required a supermajority, which they did not receive.
Under Bayonne’s Zoning Ordinance, places of worship are conditionally permitted in residential zones, so long as they have at least 20,000 square feet and satisfy the 30-foot setback requirement. Bayonne Muslims did not satisfy the 30-foot setback requirement because the existing warehouse does not have a 30-foot setback. The group said it plans to adapt the existing structure to accommodate the setback.
In the suit, Bayonne Muslims argues that Planning Board members “purported to base their determination on factors they were legally precluded from considering,” namely “traffic or the appropriateness of the neighborhood for a mosque.” The board, when casting their vote, cited parking as their reasoning, but Bayonne Muslims argues they had no right because they applied as a place of worship, and should be treated with the exemptions afforded all places of worship.
Bayonne Muslims is claiming the city of Bayonne violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 by using land use rules to place unreasonable limitations and burdens on the religious group.
The group hopes the court finds the Planning Board’s decision unconstitutional, and therefore null and void. It also requests the court issue a preliminary and final injunction to the city of Bayonne and the Planning Board within 10 days of the Court Order, to approve the group’s site plan, as well as compensatory damages to be determined at trial.
The attorney for the group sent a statement via email, quoting members of the Muslim community in Bayonne:
“I have lived in Bayonne since 1979. I own businesses and a home here. I raised my daughters here. This is my city, just as much as any other resident. We will fight for the rights that our Constitution gives every American,” said one man.
“As is happening in towns across America, phony zoning issues were used to block our mosque because of bigotry against Muslims. The Zoning Board subjected our application to completely different standards than those it applied to Christian churches. This project is very important to the future of Muslims in this city, and we will not give up,” said the group’s president.
For more, watch or read next week’s edition of the Bayonne Community News.