Friday, January 27, 2012

Mosque Loses Challenge To Zoning Denial

In Islamic Center of North Fulton, Inc. v. City of Alpharetta, Georgia, (ND GA, Jan. 25, 2012), a Georgia federal district court dismissed RLUIPA and federal constitutional challenges to Alpharetta's refusal to give zoning approval to the Islamic Center's replacement of its present worship structure with 2 buildings-- a mosque and a smaller community hall.  The court held:
Simply because a religious organization’s facility is too small does not give the organization “free reign to construct on its lot a building of whatever size it chooses, regardless of the limitations imposed by the zoning ordinances.” ... The mere fact that a church, mosque or synagogue has outgrown its current facilities does not mean that it is substantially burdened under RLUIPA.
Rejecting the mosque's RLUIPA nondiscrimination claim, the court concluded that plaintiff had failed to identify similarly situated comparators.  The court also rejected the claim under RLUIPA that special use and conditional use permit requirements amount to unreasonable limits on religious structures. WSBTV News reports on the decision.