MA: LAWSUIT OVER MOSQUE SITE IS DISMISSED
A Suffolk Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit that contended the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s sale of a parcel of land in Roxbury for a price significantly below its appraised value to the Islamic Society of Boston violated the constitutional separation between religious groups and the state.
Judge Sandra L. Hamlin ruled that James C. Policastro of Mission Hill did not have legal standing to challenge the sale because he did not file his lawsuit within 30 days of the sale, which the Legislature set as the BRA’s deadline for appealing the agency’s decisions. Policastro filed his suit on Sept. 28, 2004, more than 16 months after the BRA sold the parcel. The sale price for the parcel was $175,000, and the society spent another $43,820 to improve the land. It had been appraised at more than $400,000.
The Islamic Society planned to build the largest mosque in New England on the site, along with a school and a cultural center, but completion of the project has been delayed by funding problems and controversy over extremist remarks by two former officials of the society.
In her decision, Hamlin rejected Policastro’s contention that he was not bound by the BRA’s deadline but instead should be afforded the court’s customary three-year period to bring the suit because he was contesting the agency’s decision on constitutional grounds.
Hamlin, however, said she was basing her ruling on a 1988 Supreme Judicial Court decision that held that taxpayers were limited to the 30-day period to appeal decisions of redevelopment agencies.
In an interview yesterday, Policastro said that because he was not paying for the lawsuit himself, the decision whether to appeal would be up to his lawyer, Samuel Perkins of Boston. Perkins said yesterday that he would appeal. Policastro and Perkins both declined to say who was paying for the lawsuit.