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BASKING RIDGE, N.J. – After buying the property, getting the architectural plans properly done and then complying with every zoning request, a Muslim congregation that had sought to build a new mosque and Islamic center in this north-central New Jersey community had their proposal rejected by the local planning board.  Now, the mosque members are taking the township’s decision makers to federal court.

The congregation of the Islamic Society of Basking Ridge argues in its complaint filed on Thursday that the township of Bernards violated a law passed unanimously by Congress in 2000 that protects houses of worship from excessive land use regulations.

The site, purchased five years ago by the congregation’s president and former mayor of Basking Ridge, Mohammad Ali Chaudry, is located in a part of the township that’s zoned for houses of worship.  In fact, the proposed mosque and community center is located on Church Street.

It’s named after a 179-year-old Presbyterian congregation  in nearby Liberty Corner, about a quarter-mile down the street from the proposed mosque construction site.

However, in addition to the historic church, the street on which it’s located has a lot of something else that apparently factored into the planning board’s decision to deny the Islamic Society’s request.

“Congestion,” said one local resident who PIX11 News encountered at the neighborhood post office.

A woman on a lunchtime stroll from her office said that the area couldn’t handle more vehicular traffic. As she pointed out, there’s a volunteer firehouse across the street from the proposed site.

The mosque plans call for a parking lot to accommodate its members, but the voiced concern is that the vehicles in the lots will be problematic when they try to exit the property.

It’s an issue that figured into the nearly four years and 39 hearings into the building of the mosque that have taken place.  Over the course of that time and those hearings, the congregation kept altering its building plans to fit the requests of the township.

Something else has happened over the course of that time, as well. A variety of anti-Islam websites and bloggers have actively campaigned to stop the mosque’s construction.

It has figured into the situation that led to the congregation filing its federal lawsuit.

PIX11 News was not able to reach township officials for comment.

Meanwhile, the president of the congregation, Dr. Chaudry, responded to PIX11’s request for comment with a statement that read in part, “We bent over backwards to try and satisfy every demand made of us, no matter how unreasonable.  We are very disappointed that it came to this and will pursue our rights in court.”