An Albanian group’s plan to build a mosque and community center has been denied by the Planning Board, leading township officials to consider public takeover of the property as open space.

Meanwhile, the Paterson-based Albanian Associated Fund is gearing up to continue the battle in federal court.

The group has spent four years before the Planning Board seeking approvals to build on 11 hilly acres it owns at Colfax Road and Paterson-Hamburg Turnpike.

“We couldn’t convince them because they set their minds to be against us from the first day,” said Sal Musa, vice president of the group that represents nearly 200 families.

In July, Albanian group members filed a federal discrimination lawsuit accusing township officials of stalling the 4,715-square-foot mosque and 7,957-square-foot recreation center by imposing unusually stringent requirements and several delays.

“I don’t think it’s about us being Albanian. It’s about us trying to build a mosque,” Musa said. “Only in Wayne. I don’t know too many places that can do something like this.”

However, township officials have consistently said the issue is not religion and that their sole concern is to preserve the wooded tract because its rocky slopes make it unsuitable for building.

“It’s the poster child for a property that should be preserved for open space,” Mayor Scott Rumana said. He said township officials will look into condemnation procedures to acquire the property.

Rumana also said he will invite the group to look at four other sites. Group leaders said they will look into that proposal. But they also would consider omitting the recreation center if it helps them gain approval for the original location, Musa said.


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