Castle Rock Township must allow Islamic cemetery, judge rules

Jaylani Hussein
Jaylani Hussein
Mukhtar Ibrahim | MPR News 2015

A Dakota County District judge Friday ordered a southern Dakota County township to issue a conditional use permit for an Islamic cemetery.

Judge David Knutson ruled that Castle Rock Township's rejection of a proposed cemetery for Muslims in August 2014 was "arbitrary and capricious."

"We hoped that a simple request for a proposed Islamic cemetery in Minnesota would not need a court order, however we welcome the court's decision to grant the conditional use permit," Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN), said in a statement.

In February 2014, Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association hired an agent to purchase the 70-acre property from Agstar Financial Services.

As part of the purchase agreement, Agstar Financial Services submitted an application to the township in March 2014 for a proposed Islamic cemetery on the property and a funeral home.

In June 2014, Castle Rock Township's planning commission recommended the approval of the application without the plan to build a funeral home on the property.

However, the Castle Rock Township board rejected the application in August 2014, expressing concerns of potential loss of a "lot of tax base" and that the property "would not be open to the public for burials," according to minutes from the board's meeting on Aug. 11, 2014.

When Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association closed on the sale of the property with Agstar, it submitted its own conditional use permit to the township on Nov. 17, 2014, and agreed not to build a funeral home on the property.

Three days later, the board of Castle Rock Township denied Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association's application.

The townships' planning commission then amended the zoning ordinance so that cemeteries were no longer allowed in the zoning area where Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association's property is located.

In May last year, Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association filed the lawsuit in Dakota County District Court that Judge Knutson ruled on Friday in favor of Al Maghfirah.

Al Maghfirah Cemetery Association, he wrote "is entitled to free use of its property, subject to reasonable zoning restrictions."

"That right was denied to them by the arbitrary decision of the Caste Rock Township Board of Supervisors, which was alter framed as a concern over the loss of tax base" he added.

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