Acting Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Joseph Farneti ruled June 30 that the board was wrong when it affirmed a town inspector’s opinion that lechis are signs that fall within the town’s sign ordinance. Lechis are wooden or plastic strips affixed to telephone and utility poles to form the boundaries of an eruv, within which observant Jews may carry items on the Sabbath. The association had sought to put 28 of them on 15 poles.
Such a finding is “irrational and unreasonable in that it does not comport with the sign ordinance’s intent,” the judge wrote. “The Court finds that the boundaries are invisible as the lechis are not discernable. … Neither drivers nor casual observers would be able to differentiate the poles which have lechis attached from the other poles.”
Farneti added: “It is well-settled that, while religious institutions are not exempt from local zoning laws, greater flexibility is required in evaluating an application for a religious use and every effort to accommodate the religious use must be made.”The East End Eruv Association has been litigating in state and federal courts since 2011 in an attempt to get approval. (See prior posting.)