NORWALK, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Efforts to build an Islamic mosque in Norwalk have run up against tight zoning laws in the city.

Norwalk, which engaged in a lengthy dispute over plans for a mosque, has been asked by the Department of Justice to review regulations related to religious institutions.

Corporation Counsel Mario F. Coppola told The Hour about the federal agency’s request and that city officials may make unspecified changes to its regulations. He said the communication from the Department of Justice was initially an investigation.

Commissioners emerged from a closed-door meeting Wednesday night without taking any action.

Last September, the Common Council approved a settlement that ended a lawsuit brought by Al Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk after zoning commissioners rejected plans for a mosque and multipurpose hall.

Dena W. Iverson, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said Wednesday an investigation remains open.

In order to build a mosque, Islamic worshipers will need a special permit from the city, WCBS 880’s Fran Schneidau reported.

Fahran Memon, spokesman for the Islamic effort, said because the city has restrictive zoning, the Department of Justice is likely hoping to amend the rules so that they don’t impose on the First Amendment rights of non traditional denominations.

“The requirement of having a special permit, in the eyes of the Justice Department, is an added burden that other religious organizations haven’t had to face,” Memon said. “What I think the Department of Justice is trying to do is to force the city to amend its regulations so that all religions have the opportunity to build their house of worship wherever they do as long as its according to the other height and setback restrictions that the city would have.”

He hopes that by relaxing the zoning regulations, the Islamic community can proceed with selecting a site in Norwalk to either build or buy, Schneidau reported.

Memon hopes to see something happen within the next year.

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