STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (WJBK) - The City of Sterling Heights has agreed to settle two federal lawsuits that alleged discrimination after the suburb denied a religious organization's proposal for a mosque in a residential neighborhood
Sterling Heights City Council voted late Tuesday to accept the settlements, including one in a lawsuit brought in December by the U.S. Attorney's office.
"Inclusion cannot mean that some groups are welcome and others are not, and with this settlement Sterling Heights has taken a very important step to show its residents that all faiths are welcome," U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a press conference Wednesday morning.
Those suing say the city say it violated a relatively new law called the Religious Land Use and Instititionalized Persons Act of 2000, which basically protects religious groups from discrimination when it comes to zoning issues.
The annoucment came just hours after the Sterling Heights City Council gave the green light to the mosque, which will now be built near 15 Mile and Mound. The vote happened at a meeting packed with some 200 plus people supporting and protesting the proposal.
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Both the American Islamic Community Center and the Department of Justice filed the lawsuits after the city denied a permit to build the mosque back in 2015. Residents were concerned with potentional traffic congestion, noise, the height of the mosque and that it would bring down property values.
While the exact conditions of the settlements are not being released, the dome and spires will now be shorter; there will be no outdoor amplification; and the city has agreed to publicize its nondiscrimation policies and pratices and undergo special training on the requirements of the Religious Land Use Act. The court will also monitor the situation and any issues that may arise over the next five years.
In 2015, the city's planning commission voted against a special land agreement for the mosque sought by the American Islamic Community Center. A lawsuit brought by the American Islamic Community Center noted a "hostile" commission and public.
City officials say the settlement keeps Sterling Heights out of costly litigation.