Thursday, December 03, 2015

Church Gets Preliminary Injunction Under RLUIPA For Zoning Exclusion

In Hope Rising Community Church v. Municipality of Penn Hills, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160148 (WD PA, Nov. 30, 2015), a Pennsylvania federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation (2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160852, Oct. 28, 2015) and granted a preliminary injunction to a church that was ordered to stop holding worship services in a warehouse building it leased in an area zoned only for "Light Industrial" uses.  The city also denied a zoning variance.  The court concluded that the city's zoning law violates RLUIPA's "equal terms" provision by not allowing churches as a permitted use in areas zoned "Light Industrial," given the other types of uses that are allowed. The court concluded that:
the City has failed to show how a religious institution would cause greater harm to the Light Industrial District and its objectives than parks, playgrounds and educational institutions [which are permitted].