PITTSFIELD TWP. (WWJ/AP) – The Michigan Islamic Academy (M.I.A.) has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Pittsfield Township, saying it violated federal law by denying a zoning change that would allow construction of a 360-student school.
Officials of the school say it’s too big for its location in Ann Arbor. They bought land in Washtenaw County’s Pittsfield Township, but the township planning commission and board of trustees denied the rezoning.
Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the township violated the First Amendment’s religious freedom clause, as well as the federal Religious Institutions Land Use Protection Act.
“We have a history in metropolitan Detroit, over decades, where certain people didn’t want certain people to move into neighborhoods because they didn’t want African-Americans to move into an area, they didn’t want Jews moving into a certain area. And, I think it would set a dangerous precedent if a community is allowed to block construction of a school and an activity center based upon religion,” said Walid.
A Planning Commission member stated during a meeting that the school Islamic Academy would bring down property values.
Academy Vice President Tarek Nahlawi said the M.I.A. has made compromise after compromise, meeting and exceeding requirements. He added that the school did two traffic studies, approved by the Road Commission and accepted by the Planning Commission.
“M.I.A. worked on things that exceeded the township requirements, we even offered to give up some public land for public use and still, that was not enough.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court Wednesday. Pittsfield Township has 21 days to respond.
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