Thursday, January 07, 2016

Two RLUIPA Zoning Decisions From Last Month

Two RLUIPA zoning cases of interest were decided last month.  In Mesquite Grove Chapel v. DeBonis, (9th Cir., Dec. 18, 2015), the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a zoning official's denial of a permit to develop land zoned for church use.  The court, rejecting plaintiff's RLUIPA challenge, said in part:
The primary burdens presented here—relocating or submitting a modified application—were not substantial, especially because Mesquite presented no evidence that other sites are unsuitable.
RLUIPA Defense blog reports on the decision.

In Matter of Septimus v Board of Zoning Appeals for the Incorporated Village of Lawrence, (NY Nassau Co. Sup. Ct., Dec. 16, 2015), a New York trial court upheld a creative judgment by a Zoning Board of Appeals in a case in which a synagogue sought to have a restriction on weekday use of its building-- part of it original zoning arrangements-- lifted so that it could hold regular weekday services.  Neighbors objected because of concern about traffic. The BZA lifted the restrictive covenant precluding weekday services for a one year trial period, with the issue to be re-evaluated after the year had passed.  The court found that under RLUIPA the original ban on weekday use constitutes a substantial burden, and the BZA's trial approach is the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling governmental interest in maintaining the integrity of an established residential neighborhood.  New York Law Journal reports on the decision.