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Judge dismisses Monticello mosque lawsuit

By Kathy Daley
MONTICELLO — November 26, 2010 — A Sullivan County Supreme Court judge has ruled for the Village of Monticello in a discrimination lawsuit brought about by members of a mosque on Cottage Street.
The Islamic Cultural Center of Monticello filed the lawsuit in May, charging village officials with a continual pattern of harassment and red tape as members built the place of worship over the past four years.
In his 10-page decision, Justice Frank LaBuda dismissed all complaints against the village, Village Manager John Barbarite, Monticello’s Code Enforcement Officer and its Planning Board.
LaBuda said there was no “unreasonable implementation of land-use regulation and imposition of conditions… which created a substantial burden on the religious exercise” of the Islamic center.
Nor did the village deprive the mosque of due process and equal protection rights, LaBuda said.
The lawsuit claimed the Center had spent nearly $1 million in converting an old house in a decaying neighborhood but had been met with stonewalling and inordinate requests for fees on the part of the Village.
On the contrary, said Judge LaBuda, “the administrative record shows that defendants have done nothing more than required plaintiff to adhere to the Village code process, which cannot be considered a substantial burden.”
LaBuda, who also lifted a temporary restraining order against the village, said the record reveals “a community and local government endeavoring to accommodate the need for a house of worship for the local Islamic community.”
In May, Village Manager Barbarite said the mosque had repeatedly ignored village regulations. They include starting renovation on the house without a building permit, and starting work on a parking lot in a separate lot, again without a permit.
The mosque, which has held Friday services at the Cottage Street site since 2006, was founded by Balkan natives who originally come from Bosnia, Montenegro and Albania.

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