Wednesday, February 10, 2016

4th Circuit: Variance Denial For Church Does Not Violate RLUIPA

In Andon, LLC v. City of Newport News Virginia, (4th Cir., Feb. 9, 2016), the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the argument that a Board of Zoning Appeals' refusal to grant a zoning variance amounted to a substantial burden on religious exercise under RLUIPA. Seeking to use a building that did not meet zoning requirements as a church facility, Reconciling People Together in Faith Ministries entered a lease of it contingent on obtaining a variance. The court held:
Because the plaintiffs knowingly entered into a contingent lease agreement for a non-conforming property, the alleged burdens they sustained were not imposed by the BZA’s action denying the variance, but were self-imposed hardships....  A self-imposed hardship generally will not support a substantial burden claim under RLUIPA, because the hardship was not imposed by governmental action altering a legitimate, pre-existing expectation that a property could be obtained for a particular land use.
[Thanks to Will Esser via Religionlaw for the lead.]