Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Zoning For "Houses of Worship" Does Not Include Homeless Services Site
The Albany Times-Union reports that a New York state trial court judge last week overruled the Albany Board of Zoning Appeals decision that would have allowed the non-profit group Family Promise of the Capital Region to use a building in an area zoned to include "houses of worship" to provide services to homeless families. The site-- a parsonage of the Bethany Reformed Church-- was used to provide daytime child care, access to computers, career and life counseling and a place to pick up mail and make phone calls. The Board of Zoning Appeals held that the outreach services were part of Bethany's religious mission. However the court disagreed, saying that a "house of worship" is a place set aside for for some form of religious devotion, ritual or service showing reverence. Critics of the court's decision say the ruling could create problems for all sorts of congregations that make their basements and meeting rooms available for social programs they deem part of their missions. Family Promise can still apply for a zoning variance to allow it to continue its operations.