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NJ town refuses to allow Iranian center expansion.

A small town in New Jersey has refused to allow the Iranian cultural center there to build an extension and increase its size by half. Parking was the main issue discussed.

The Noor-va-Danesh Cultural and Learning Center in Rutherford, a suburb eight miles west of New York City, currently has 3,013 square feet under its roof. Its proposed expansion would have added another 1,650 square feet.

The Rutherford Zoning Board of Adjustment last week turned down the variance requested.

Neighbors living near the center spoke out against project, saying expansion would have drawn more people to the already crowded street where parking is scarce.

Peter Paluch, a resident of the street where the cultural center is located, said that Pierrepont School, located across the street from Noor-va-Danesh, already exhausts all of the nearby street parking.

"We have a problem with parking and, while it is not caused by [Noor-va-Danesh], it is exasperated by them," said Paluch.

The Noor-va-Danesh representatives presented a traffic study done by Staiger & Peregoy that suggested there was a sufficient supply of on-street parking anticipated demand.

Board members and neighbors questioned the accuracy of the study, noting that it was done last summer and therefore did not take into account the parking of parents and teachers from the school.

Due to the lack of any off-street parking on the Noor-va-Danesh property, the organization needed to ask the zoning board for a variance from local ordinances requiring a building of its size to provide off-street parking. In addition, the center needed another variance because the addition would make the building cover more than the 25 percent of the lot, which is the maximum amount the borough zoning code allows.

The current building uses 19.6 percent of its lot; the proposed addition would raise that to 30.9 percent.

During the meeting, representatives speaking for Noor-va-Danesh argued that the addition to the building would not only be an improvement for the organization but for the entire neighborhood. According to plans submitted to the zoning board, the organization plans to landscape the property, creating a walking path around the building.

Only three members of the eight-person zoning board voted for the project, four voted against and one abstained from the vote.

"I think the plan is beautiful. I need to see some relief to the parking situation," said Richard Rivito, chairman of Zoning Board of Adjustment, hinting that the board would be willing to revisit the issue if the culture center provided parking.

It was revealed a few years ago that the Noor-va-Danesh center was supported financially by the Alavi Foundation, which is the revolutionary regime's name for the assets of the Shah taken over from his Pahlavi Foundation.
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Title Annotation:Diaspora: Around the globe
Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Feb 8, 2013
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