Youkhanna et al v. Sterling Heights, City of et al
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION [#9]. Signed by District Judge Gershwin A. Drain. (TBan)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
KAMAL ANWIYA YOUKHANNA,
Case No.: 17-cv-10787
Honorable Gershwin A. Drain
CITY OF STERLING HEIGHTS, et al.,
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY
On March 13, 2017, Plaintiffs Kamal Anwiya Youkhanna, Josephine Soro,
Wafa Catcho, Marey Jabbo, Debi Rrasi, Jeffrey Norgrove, and Megan McHugh
filed the instant 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against Defendants City of Sterling
Heights and its Mayor, Michael C. Taylor, alleging the Defendants violated their
fundamental rights protected by the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as
well as Michigan’s Open Meetings Act, MICH. COMP. LAWS § 15.263 et seq., by
entering into a Consent Judgment with the American Islamic Community Center
(“AICC”), which allows the construction of a mosque on 15 Mile Road in the
City. See American Islamic Community Center, Inc. v. City of Sterling Heights,
No. 1:16-cv-12920 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 10, 2017).
Presently before the Court is the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary
Injunction, filed on March 17, 2017.
Plaintiffs seek an order preliminarily
enjoining the City from enforcing the Consent Judgment. The Defendants filed a
Response in Opposition on April 3, 2017, and Plaintiff filed a Reply in support on
April 10, 2017. On June 13, 2017, the Court granted Defendants’ Motion to File
Supplemental Brief. Plaintiffs filed a Response to Defendants’ Supplemental
Brief on June 14, 2017.
On April 14, 2017, the Court granted the AICC’s Motion to File an Amicus
Brief.1 Plaintiffs filed their Response to the AICC’s Amicus Brief on April 19,
2017. On April 19, 2017, the AICC filed Supplemental Authority in Opposition
to Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Lastly, the United States filed a
Statement of Interest pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 517 on April 13, 2017. Plaintiff
filed a Response to the United States’ Statement of Interest on April 19, 2017.
The AICC’s Amicus Brief raises the issue of Plaintiffs’ standing to bring the
instant action. The Court has decided to consider this issue at a later date so that
the Defendants and the Plaintiffs may have an opportunity to brief the issue of
standing. As such, the Court will address the AICC’s standing argument in a
A hearing on the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction was held on
June 20, 2017. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the Plaintiffs’
Motion for Preliminary Injunction.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
The instant action stems from the AICC’s ongoing efforts to have a mosque
built in the City. The AICC is a Michigan nonprofit religious organization that
serves the Muslim community in Macomb and Oakland Counties. The AICC
community is comprised of 100 members that represent approximately 300 family
The AICC selected the City because eighty percent (80%) of its
members reside in the City. The AICC currently meets at a property located at
27205 Dequindre Road in Madison Heights, Michigan.
The AICC offers a variety of services to the local Muslim community,
including weekly Thursday programs, a Friday afternoon group prayer service,
Sunday breakfast and youth program, a program for young children that teaches
Arabic and the fundamentals of Islam, community retreats and other activities.
The Friday afternoon service, which is called Jumma, is the most important service
of the week for Muslims akin to Christian mass on Sunday. A mosque is the
principal religious building of Islam, and paramount among its many functions is
communal prayer. The architectural design is based on liturgical elements leading
the participant to orient towards group prayer.
In February of 2012, AICC members began searching for vacant property in
the City on which a mosque could be constructed. In May of 2014, the AICC
learned of real property along Fifteen Mile Road that was for sale that it believed
was an ideal site for AICC’s new mosque.
The property consists of five
contiguous parcels under single ownership. AICC currently leases the property
and has an option to purchase it upon obtaining City approval to construct a
mosque on the premises.
Under the City’s Zoning Ordinance (“SHZO”), “places of worship” are not
permitted as of right in any of the City’s 23 zoning districts. However, “places of
worship” are expressly allowed in Residential (R-60) zoned areas through Special
Approval Land Use (“SALU”) under the SHZO. To qualify, the place of worship
must demonstrate the proposed construction meets the objective standards of the
SHZO along with general discretionary standards listed for consideration in the
SHZO. In contrast, the SHZO allows certain secular assemblies as of right in the
R-60 zone, including “[c]ity-owned and/or operated libraries, museums,
administrative offices[,] parks and recreational facilities.”
The specific standards set forth in the SHZO for special approval land use
relate to height and setback requirements, a requirement that places of worship be
on a major or secondary road, parking requirements, and requirements for auxiliary
uses. Specifically, the specific standards are articulated in §3.02 of the SHZO and
SECTION 3.02. SPECIAL APPROVAL LAND USES.
The following uses, and other similar to those cited in this article, may be
permitted by the Planning Commission subject to the general standards of
section 25.02 and the specific standards imposed for each use:
Churches, synagogues, mosques and places of group worship, subject
to the following:
Buildings of greater than the maximum height allowed in this district
may be permitted, provided front, side and rear yards are increased above
the minimum required yards by one foot for each foot of building height that
exceeds the maximum height allowed.
All ingress to and egress from the site shall be directly onto a major or
secondary thoroughfare having an existing or planned right-of-way width of
at least 86 feet as indicated on the Master Road Plan;
Parking lot screening meeting the requirements for moderate intensity
impacts shall be provided as required in section 24.01;
Such facilities may include related community centers, provided that
such centers are limited to activities sponsored by church members only.
Said facilities shall not be used as banquet facilities to the general public;
All principal and accessory buildings, except for accessory storage
buildings, such as a shed or detached garage, shall maintain rear and side
yard setbacks of at least 50 feet.
The general standards for special approval land use include factors such as
harmony with the neighborhood, safe traffic flow, and impact on the development
or use of neighboring properties. Specifically, the general standards are articulated
in § 25.02 of the SHZO, and state:
SECTION 25.02 GENERAL STANDARDS.
The proposed special approval land use shall be of such
location, size and character that it will be in harmony with the
appropriate and orderly development of the surrounding neighborhood
and/or vicinity and applicable regulations of the zoning district
(including but not limited to any applicable performance standards) in
which it is to be located.
The proposed use shall be of a nature that will make vehicular
and pedestrian traffic no more hazardous than is normal for the district
involved, taking into consideration vehicular turning movements in
relations to routes of traffic flow, proximity and relationship to
intersections, adequacy of sight distances, location and access of offstreet parking and provisions for pedestrian traffic, with particular
attention to minimizing child-vehicle interfacing.
The proposed use shall be designed as the location, size,
intensity, site layout and periods of operation of any such proposed
use to eliminate any possible nuisance emanating therefrom which
might be noxious to the occupants of any other nearby permitted uses,
whether by reason of dust, noise, fumes, vibration, smoke or lights.
The proposed use shall be such that the proposed location and
height of buildings or structures and location, nature and height of
walls, fences and landscaping will not interfere with or discourage the
appropriate development and use of adjacent land and buildings or
unreasonably affect their value.
The proposed use shall relate harmoniously with the physical
and economic aspects of adjacent land uses as regards prevailing
shopping habits, convenience of access by perspective patrons,
continuity of development and need for particular services and
facilities in specific areas of the city.
The proposed use is so designed, located, planned and to be
operated that the public health, safety and welfare will be protected.
The proposed use shall not be detrimental or injurious to the
neighborhood within which it is to be located, nor shall such use
operate as a deterrent to future land uses permitted within said zoning
district and shall be in harmony with the general purpose and intent of
the zoning ordinance.
On June 16, 2015, the AICC submitted its SALU Application. On August
13, 2015, the Planning Commission conducted a public hearing on the AICC’s
SALU Application. Prior to the meeting, the City Planning Commission prepared
a Staff Report, which states that “[t]he Office of Planning has completed its review
and has determined that all of the specific conditions contained under Section
3.02A and other applicable design standards identified under Zoning Ordinance
No. 2788 have been met[.]” See Def.’s Resp., Ex. B at Pg ID 540. While the Staff
Report indicated that the AICC’s SALU Application met all requirements of the
SHZO, it included “alternative motion language . . . if the Planning Commission
elects to deny or postpone the request . . . .” Id. at Pg ID 542.2
At the beginning of the meeting, City Planner Donald Mende explained the
special land use requirements under the SHZO and that the proposed mosque met
these objective requirements. See Def.’s Resp., Ex. D at Pg ID 570. He indicated
Plaintiffs mischaracterize the August 13, 2015 Staff Report. They advance two
different theories concerning the object of the Staff Report. They first argue that
the report “was not a recommendation by the Planning Commission to approve the
AICC Application. Rather, it was a recitation of reasons that the Commission
could vote to either approve, or alternatively, deny the AICC Application.” See
Plfs.’ Mot., Decl. of Jeffrey Norgrove at Pg ID 250. Plaintiffs also argue that the
August 2015 staff report provided two recommendations: a motion to approve and
a motion to deny. See Plfs.’ Resp. to Statement of Interest at Pg ID 1058-59.
that the mosque would cover approximately 11% of the entire 4.3 acre parcel. Id.
He noted that the height of the spires and dome complied with the SHZO because
of the increased setbacks. Id. He noted that a church in the City had a 75-foot tall
steeple, which was taller than the proposed mosque’s 58-dome and 66-foot spires.
Id. He added that the SHZO requires 109 parking spaces, and AICC’s proposal
provides for 130 parking spaces. Id. Lastly, he noted that the location of the
mosque on a “major thoroughfare” was also appropriate, as worship facilities need
only be located on “secondary roads.” Id.
Mende further explained that, with respect to the subjective/discretionary
standards set forth in § 25.02, the AICC had offered to a) use non-reflective paint
on the dome structures; b) utilize no audio devices outside of the building; c)
conduct all activities inside of the building (except for a small children’s play
area); d) refrain from objecting to the granting of liquor licenses to nearby
establishments; and e) prevent the multi-purpose room from being rented to the
After Mr. Mende spoke, several audience members raised questions about
traffic, overall size, use of the building and safety. Some comments were directed
at the AICC’s religion including a plea to “remember 911,” statements that
Christians would not be allowed to build a church in Iraq, and statements that
property values would drop if a mosque were built in the neighborhood.
Plaintiff Norgrove,3 one of the Planning Commissioners, indicated he would
entertain a motion to postpone because he would “not feel comfortable making a
decision” at that time. In response, Planning Commissioner Jerry Rowe suggested
a postponement to allow AICC to “review the scale of the development.” Planning
Commissioner Stephan Militello responded, “I would be against [postponing] . . .
if this was a church, a Catholic Church or anything else, we wouldn’t be, we
wouldn’t [need a postponement].” The Planning Commission then voted 6 to 1 to
postpone the matter.
Following the City Planning Commission meeting, public opposition against
the AICC’s SALU Application continued to mount. At a City Council meeting on
August 18, 2015, a resident raised a picture of a woman wearing a garment
covering her head and stated that he did not want to “be near people like this.”
Another resident objected that the mosque might be used to store weapons, while
Norgrove is also alleged to hold bias against Muslims and improperly attempted
to influence the other Planning Commissioners by contacting them in between the
first and second planning commission meeting and informing them that he would
be making a motion to deny the SALU Application. Norgove has allegedly
opposed the construction of a different mosque in 2011 and posted anti-Muslim
statements on social media, “Oh now the terrorists are gonna attack, according to
the media this weekend. Come to the Detroit area. They don’t [sic] bomb their
revenue source.” Norgrove is also alleged to have shown a picture on social media
with the statement “share this pig if your [sic] not celebrating Ramadan [sic].”
another resident argued that Homeland Security should screen the AICC because
“they’re cutting people’s heads off, they kill our soldiers . . . .”
continued, the Mayor announced he opposed the Application contrary to his
position after the August 13, 2015 meeting.
Additionally, Plaintiff Norgrove
attended a protest against the SALU Application’s approval.
On August 28, 2015, the AICC’s architect submitted revised plans to the
Planning Commission in an effort to address some of the Planning Commission’s
concerns. The AICC’s revised plans included a reduction to the height of the two
spires. The Planning Commission issued a second staff report dated September 10,
2015, which concluded that the AICC’s “minimal amendments to the architectural
plans . . . do not support a finding that the proposed special approval land use
comports with the General Standards.”
Based on this conclusion, it was
recommended that the Commission deny the AICC’s SALU Application.
On September 10, 2015, over 200 people appeared at the Planning
Commission meeting. At the meeting, the City Planner reported that AICC had
agreed to reduce the height of the spires by approximately 13%, but increased the
size of the dome by 12%. At the conclusion of the meeting, Norgrove made a
motion to deny the application for the following reasons:
The location and height of the proposed building interferes with
and discourages the appropriate development and use of adjacent land
and buildings with the height exceeding that of other structures in the
immediate area by more than 30 feet at some points in the proposed
building. Ordinance General Standards 25.02A and D;
The square footage of the proposed building in comparison to
the size of the parcel is excessive and not compatible with established
long term development patterns of this R-60 (One Family Residential)
Zoning District. Ordinance General Standards 25.02 A and D;
That given the approximate 20,500 square foot size of the
proposed building and the allocation of the floor space to ancillary
uses, there is likely shortage of off-street parking when the principal
and the ancillary uses are combined, particularly during times of
maximum capacity prayer hall usage. Ordinance Standards 25.02B;
Section 23.02 B1 of the ordinance requires additional parking
spaces for ancillary uses which are not addressed in the architectural
and site plans;
The scale of the proposed building on this site is not
harmonious with the scale of the existing buildings situated in the
vicinity of this R-60 (One Family Residential) zoning district and in
neighboring areas. Ordinance General Standards 25.02A,E,F & G.
The Planning Commission’s vote to deny the AICC’s SALU Application
“triggered a brief, spirited but otherwise peaceful celebration by several hundred
people gathered outside of City Hall . . . . chant[ing] ‘God Bless America’ and
boo[ing] Muslim and civil rights leaders as they left City Hall, separated by police
barricades.” See Def.’s Resp., Detroit News, Sept. 10, 2015 at Pg ID 582.
The AICC claims that in other instances of SALU applications for places of
worship, the City provided specific instructions for revisions or postponed
considering an application to afford the applicant an opportunity to amend the
application. However, the City did not provide the AICC the same opportunities to
revise its SALU Application at the September 10, 2015 meeting. Moreover, in the
last ten years, the only SALU Application for a place of worship that has been
denied by the City was the AICC’s SALU Application at issue herein.
As a result of the denial, the AICC filed a lawsuit against the City alleging:
(1) multiple violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
(“RLUIPA”); (2) violation of the First Amendment (rights to free exercise of
religion, free speech and assembly); (3) violation of the Fourteenth Amendment
(Equal Protection); (4) violation of the Michigan Constitution; and (5) violation of
the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) also investigated the denial
of the AICC’s SALU Application and filed a second lawsuit against the City
alleging violations of the RLUIPA and discrimination against the AICC.
The DOJ, AICC, and City Representatives participated in facilitation with
Magistrate Judge Anthony P. Patti. With the assistance of Magistrate Judge Patti,
the parties fashioned a potential “global” resolution to the underlying lawsuits.
The proposed Consent Judgment granted permission to the AICC to build the
mosque. In exchange, the AICC agreed to provide off-site parking and the City
would be allowed to institute permit parking in the neighborhood and the ability to
enforce its parking ordinances. In addition, the proposed height of the dome and
spires structures was lowered. The Consent Judgment also mandated that all
religious activities be conducted indoors, that there be no external amplification of
sound, no call to prayer, and that the dome be painted with non-reflective paint.
Additionally, the Consent Judgment allowed the City to resolve the DOJ lawsuit.
The City Council held a meeting on February 21, 2017 to determine whether
the City should approve the Consent Judgment. Over 240 residents attended the
meeting. Plaintiffs Youkhanna, Soro, Catchco, Jabbo, Rrasi and McHugh attended
the meeting in order to express their opposition to the Consent Judgment. Because
of the extraordinary amount of attendees, the City added seating in the vestibule
located just outside Council chambers. The Mayor, Defendant Taylor, proposed
that each speaker be limited to two minutes of speaking time. The Council had no
objection. The City also broadcast the meeting on public television, which was
also broadcast in the vestibule area where the overflow seating was located.
At the meeting, after the City Attorney explained the terms of the proposed
Consent Judgment, she recommended that the settlement be approved.
indicated that the City was not admitting liability. Thereafter, attendees were
invited to speak.
Prior to public comment, however, Defendant Taylor, set
“ground rules” warning speakers to speak only on the agenda item and that
speakers needed to follow the rules or they would be called out of order.
Despite these warnings, several loud and disruptive outbursts occurred.
There were 26 interruptions by the audience, which caused multiple recesses.
These outbursts included individuals speaking out of turn, shouting, applauding,
and other disruptive behavior. During the Council’s deliberations, the attendees
began screaming at Councilman Douglas Skrzniarz, mid-sentence, forcing another
recess. Upon returning, Defendant Taylor warned that any more interruptions
would require him to clear the room to allow council to finish this agenda item.
The attendees continued to disrupt the deliberations which caused another recess.
At that point, Defendant Taylor ordered that attendees be removed from Council
Chambers to the vestibule area where they could watch the vote without causing
further disruptions and recesses. The media was not required to leave Council
Chambers during the vote. The City Council ultimately voted to approve the
Plaintiffs filed the instant action on March 13, 2017, seeking to invalidate
the Consent Judgment. Several of the Plaintiffs are Chaldean Christians from Iraq
and at least one Plaintiff is an Assyrian Christian from Syria. They assert that
Chaldean Christians in Iraq and Assyrian Christians in Syria have been subjected
to violence and abuse from ISIS and they oppose construction of the mosque at its
proposed location. Some of the Plaintiffs live on Fifteen Mile Road, directly
across the street from where the mosque is to be built, and yet others live nearby
and travel on Fifteen Mile Road on a regular basis.
Plaintiffs allege that by approving the Consent Judgment and permitting
construction of a mosque, the City granted AICC special rights and privileges
because its SALU Application does not comply with the SHZO. Plaintiffs assert
they are at risk of future harm as a result and request that enforcement of the
Consent Judgment be preliminarily enjoined during the pendency of this lawsuit.
LAW & ANALYSIS
A. Standard for Preliminary Injunctions
“A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary measure that has been
characterized as ‘one of the most drastic tools in the arsenal of judicial remedies.’”
Bonnell v. Lorenzo, 241 F.3d 800, 808 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting Hanson Trust PLC
v. ML SCM Acquisition Inc., 781 F.2d 264, 273 (2d Cir. 1986)). This equitable
remedy preserves the relative positions of the parties until further proceedings on
the merits can be held. See id. Whether to grant such relief is a matter within the
discretion of the district court. See Certified Restoration Dry Cleaning Network,
L.L.C. v. Tenke Corp., 511 F.3d 535, 540 (6th Cir. 2007). Four factors are balanced
in determining whether to grant a request for a preliminary injunction. See Winter
v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 20 (2008). Those factors are:
(1) whether the movant is likely to succeed on the merits;
(2) whether the movant is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the
absence of preliminary relief;
(3) whether the balance of equities tips in the movant’s favor; and
(4) whether issuance of an injunction is in the public interest.
“Although no one factor is controlling, a finding that there is simply no
likelihood of success on the merits is usually fatal.” Gonzales v. Nat’l Bd. of Med.
Examiners, 225 F.3d 620, 625 (6th Cir. 2000). The court should first address
whether the movant shows a substantial likelihood of success on the merits. See
Bonnell, 241 F.3d at 809. This is because a successful showing that a constitutional
right is being threatened or impaired mandates a finding of the second factor,
irreparable injury. See id. (citing Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 373 (1976)).
Applying the factors, the Court does not find that injunctive relief is appropriate at
B. Success on the Merits
Plaintiffs argue they are likely to succeed on their claim that the Consent
Judgment is invalid and unenforceable. The Court approved the Consent Judgment
without any findings that there was or will be an actual violation of federal law; the
City expressly disavowed any liability. Plaintiffs argue that the City Council
violated the SHZO laws because the City Council is required to consider the same
standards as the Planning Commission but failed to do so before approving the
Consent Judgment. League of Residential Neighborhood Advocates v. City of Los
Angeles, 498 F.3d 1052 (9th Cir. 2007); St. Charles Tower, Inc. v. Kurtz, 643 F.3d
264 (8th Cir. 2011)(state actors cannot enter into an agreement allowing them to
act outside their legal authority . . . .”); Perkins v. City of Chi. Heights, 47 F.3d
212, 216 (7th Cir. 1995)(upon properly supported findings that such a remedy is
necessary to rectify a violation of federal law, the district court can approve a
consent decree which overrides state law provisions); Kasper v. Board of Election
Comm’rs, 814 F.2d 332 (7th Cir. 1987); Cleveland County Ass’n for Gov’t by the
People v. Cleveland County Bd. of Comm’rs, 142 F.3d 468 (D.C. Cir. May 1,
1998); Vestevich v. W. Bloomfield Twp., 245 Mich. App. 759 (Mich. Ct. of App.
Contrary to the Plaintiffs’ argument, they have not shown a strong likelihood
of success on the merits of their claims. As an initial matter, Plaintiffs concede
that the SHZO permits the City Council to approve a special land use via a Consent
Judgment in order to resolve pending litigation. See SHZO, § 25.01(A) at Pg ID
558 (“The City of Sterling Heights Planning Commission shall have the power to
approve or disapprove all special approval land uses, except that the City Council
shall be the approving authority with respect to special approval land uses
which have been approved by the City Council.”)(emphasis supplied).
it is true that the City Council must consider the same factors under the SHZO, it is
not required to reach the same conclusion as the Planning Commission. Id. at §
25.01(C)(“When the City Council is the reviewing authority with respect to a
special approval land use, it shall have the same reviewing authority and shall
consider the same standards as the Planning Commission under the special
approval land use criteria applicable to such use in the particular zoning district
and Article 25.”)
The record reveals that as of the August 13, 2015 Planning Commission
meeting, the AICC’s SALU Application had met all the required objective criteria
set forth in SHZO §3.02. That the Planning Commission’s review of the general
discretionary criteria lead its members to conclude that the SALU should be denied
does not mean the City Council was required to reach the same conclusion after its
review of the general discretionary criteria set forth in SHZO §25.02. The general
discretionary standards of §25.02 require the exercise of discretion and judgment,
including criteria such as harmony with the neighborhood. As such, it is not
surprising that differences of opinion regarding these factors has occurred.
Thus, League of Residential Neighborhood Advocates and similar cases
cited by Plaintiffs are distinguishable from the instant matter because in all of those
actions, a consent decree actually violated local zoning laws as opposed to the
Consent Judgment at issue herein.
In League of Residential Neighborhood
Advocates, the Los Angeles municipal code limited use of buildings or structures
in residential zones to primarily one or two-family dwellings. 498 F.3d at 105556. However, conditional uses such as for places of worship are permitted after
initial decision by the Zoning Administrator, public notice and public hearing. Id.
After the Los Angeles Zoning Administrator denied the congregation’s
conditional use request, the congregation brought suit against the city of Los
Angeles. Id. at 1053. The parties eventually settled, with the city denying any
wrongdoing, but permitting the congregation to build a synagogue at the proposed
residentially zoned site. Id. at 1054. Nearby residents to the proposed synagogue
site brought suit alleging that the local zoning ordinances denied the city the
authority to enter into such an agreement. Id. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
agreed, concluding that the settlement agreement “circumvented the procedural
and substantive limitations contained in” the city code. Id. at 1057. This is unlike
the situation herein, where the City Council was authorized under the SHZO to
approve a special approval land use via a Consent Judgment to resolve pending
As such, because the City was authorized under the SHZO to approve the
special approval land use by approving the Consent Judgment, the Court was not
required to make a finding that federal law had been violated. Rather, the Court
was required to ensure that the agreement was fair, adequate, reasonable and
consistent with the public interest. United States v. Lexington-Fayette Urban Cty.
Gov’t, 591 F.3d 484, 489 (6th Cir. 2010) (courts should consider fairness,
adequacy, reasonableness and whether the agreement is consistent with the public
interest). Here, the Court properly found that the Consent Judgment was fair,
adequate, reasonable and consistent with the public interest. Thus, there is no basis
to invalidate the Consent Judgment because its approval by the City did not violate
the local zoning laws.4
Plaintiffs further argue that when the City approved the Consent Judgment,
it did so in violation of Plaintiffs’ due process rights. Specifically, Plaintiffs
complain they were not provided notice of the City Council’s meeting concerning
the propriety of the City approving the Consent Judgment. Additionally, Plaintiffs
were never served with a copy of the proposed Consent Judgment prior to the
Both the AICC and the United States advance arguments concerning the strength
of their claims rasied in their previous lawsuits in an apparent attempt to suggest
that even if the Court was required to make explicit findings that the City had
violated the RLUIPA, it is evident that such a violation occurred in connection
with the AICC’s request for a special approval land use. Because the Court
concludes that the City’s approval of the Consent Judgment did not violate the
SHZO, it need not resolve the merits of the AICC’s and the United States’ claims
in the underlying lawsuits.
Contrary to Plaintiffs’ assertions, they had no right to a public hearing under
the facts of this case. The SHZO states that public hearings are required for SALU
requests except when “[t]he Planning Commission has previously held a public
hearing on the request . . . or [t]he special approval land use proposed to be
approved is within a development proposed to be developed pursuant to a consent
judgment that is approved by the City Council to resolve pending litigation with
the city.” §25.03(A)(3)(a)-(b). As such, Plaintiffs complaints concerning lack of
notice are of no merit. Notice is not required where no public hearing is required.
MICH. COMP. LAWS § 125.3103(1). Nor does Michigan law require notice of the
meeting’s agenda. The applicable rules provide that “[a] copy of the agenda and
supporting materials shall be prepared for Council Members, the City Manager, the
City Attorney, and the press on or before 5:00 PM three working days before a
regular Council meeting . . .” See Def.’s Resp., Ex. L, Rule 7. Thus, the rules do
not require that a copy of the agenda be provided to the general public.
Plaintiffs also raise a variety of complaints about the Council’s meeting.
First, they argue that the Defendant Mayor’s ad hoc rule limiting residents to two
minutes to speak denied them their right to express their views. Plaintiffs further
complain that the Mayor prohibited certain views from being expressed,
specifically no one was permitted to mention religion or any statement deemed
critical of Islam. Plaintiffs also state that the Mayor directed the City police to
seize individuals and escort them out of the meeting if the Mayor opposed what
they were saying about the Consent Judgment. Lastly, the Mayor ordered all of the
citizens out of the public hearing when it came time for the council members to
cast their votes.
While Plaintiffs Youkhanna, Soro, Catcho, Jabbo, Rrasi and McHugh all
spoke at various time during the meeting and never used the entire two minutes
they were allotted to speak, they claim that the Defendants’ threats and restraints
on the content of their speech restricted and had a chilling effect on their First
Amendment speech rights. Plaintiffs also argue that the Consent Judgment is
invalid because its approval violated Michigan’s Open Meetings Act because all
the citizens were ordered out of the meeting prior to the Council’s vote.
Plaintiffs’ complaints concerning the February 21, 2017 City Council
meeting do not support the conclusion that Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the
merits of their Due Process and First Amendment free speech claims. “A public
body may establish reasonable rules and regulations in order to minimize the
possibility of disrupting the meeting.” MICH. COMP. LAWS § 15.263(1).
Additionally, a person can be excluded from a meeting due to “a breach of the
peace actually committed at the meeting.”
MICH. COMP. LAWS § 15.263(6).
Lastly, Council may limit the amount of time that each person can speak at the
meeting. MICH. COMP. LAWS § 15.263(5). The rules further provide that citizen
communications should be orderly during Council meetings, and that a person may
be called to order if they fail to speak on matters germane to the business of the
City, or if they use vulgarity or personally attack persons or institutions. See Def.’s
Resp., Ex. L, Rule 5.
Here, the facts of record demonstrate that after public comment, 26
interruptions, several warnings and three recesses, Defendant Taylor cleared the
room of the disruptive crowd in order to conclude the item of business. There was
no secret vote or closed meeting as suggested by the Plaintiffs, since the meeting
was broadcast to a local television channel, which was able to be viewed in the
vestibule area where the residents were relocated once the Mayor ordered everyone
out of Council chambers.
Based on the foregoing considerations, Plaintiffs do not have a strong
likelihood of success on their claims. This factor favors denying their request for
preliminary injunctive relief.
C. Irreparable Injury
Plaintiffs argue that if the mosque is built at the proposed location, they will
suffer harm by being deprived of the quiet use and enjoyment of their homes, as
well as be subjected to serious traffic safety risks. Plaintiff Rrasi claims that when
the City Council approved the AICC’s SALU Application, she put her house up for
sale, but has since taken it off of the market in the hopes the Consent Judgment
will be invalidated by this lawsuit and she will not be forced to move. Defendants
counter that Plaintiffs’ Declarations are conclusory and provide no evidence
supporting their contention they will no longer enjoy their property. The Court
agrees with the Defendants that Plaintiffs have failed to present evidence of
irreparable harm other than bare bones conclusions. This factor also does not favor
granting preliminary injunctive relief.
D. Harm to Others
Defendants argue that the AICC and the United States will be harmed if the
Consent Judgment is invalidated because Plaintiffs have failed to bring this action
against them yet they are necessary parties under Rule 19(b) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. Both have an “interest relating to the subject of the action”—
the Consent Judgment.
Moreover, Plaintiffs attempt to downplay the harm that AICC will suffer
should the Court invalidate the Consent Judgment. They assert that the AICC
cannot suffer because it already has a place of worship in Madison Heights.
Plaintiffs also argue that the AICC filed an Amicus Brief and did not argue it will
be irreparably harmed should the Court grant a preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs
assert that the Department of Justice is not a party to the underlying lawsuit
between the AICC and the City, nor the Consent Judgment, thus it is not a
necessary party under Fed. R. Civ. P. 19.5
Based on the parties’ arguments, the Court finds that preliminary injunctive
relief would harm the AICC and its members, as well as the City and the United
States. This factor also supports denying the Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary
E. Public Interest
Plaintiffs maintain that a preliminary injunction will serve the public interest
because if the mosque is constructed, the public will be subject to great harm
because of the traffic problems that will ensue.
They further argue that the
Consent Judgment is inadequate and lacks standards needed for construction of the
mosque and compliance with the terms of the agreement between the City and the
Conversely, Defendants assert that invalidating the Consent Judgment and
subjecting the City to suit that could be acrimonious and costly is not in the public
interest. Here, the Court finds that the public interest is best served by denying the
request for injunctive relief because the Consent Judgment represented a voluntary
While the Government was not a party to the case between the AICC and
the City, the Consent Order entered in the DOJ’s lawsuit against the City
references the Consent Judgment in American Islamic Community Center, Inc. v.
City of Sterling Heights, No. 1:16-cv-12920 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 10, 2017).
resolution to what could have been strongly contested and lengthy litigation
between the City, the AICC and the United States. This factor likewise fails to
support Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.
For the reasons discussed above, the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary
Injunction [#9] is DENIED.
Dated: June 28, 2017
/s/Gershwin A. Drain
GERSHWIN A. DRAIN
United States District Judge
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE
Copies of this Order were served upon attorneys of record on
June 28, 2017, by electronic and/or ordinary mail.
/s/ Tanya Bankston
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