Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Orthodox Jewish School Loses RLUIPA Zoning Challenge

In Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov Elementary School v. City of Evanston, (IL App., March 6, 2015), an Illinois appellate court rejected a RLUIPA challenge brought by an Orthodox Jewish elementary school after Evanston City Council refused zoning modifications that would allow the construction of a school on property in an industrial zone that plaintiff had purchased.  Rejecting the school's reliance on RLUIPA's equal terms provision, the court said:
Unlike its nonreligious comparators, the removal of the ... property from the property tax rolls would deprive Evanston of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in property tax revenue at a time when approximately 40% of its land is already off the tax rolls. The generation of tax revenues is a legitimate concern of land-use regulation.... and, thus, renders JDBY, which is not subject to property taxes, dissimilar to its nonreligious comparators who are subject to such taxes.
The court also upheld a trial court finding that RLUIPA's nondiscrimination provisions had not been violated.  RLUIPA Defense blog has more on the decision.