Friday, February 17, 2017

Jewish School's Challenge To Zoning Decision Is Ripe For Litigation

In Congregation Kollel, Inc. v. Township of Howell, N.J., (D NJ, Feb. 16, 2017), a New Jersey federal district court rejected a township's lack of ripeness defense in a suit by an Orthodox Jewish organization that is attempting to construct a classroom building, dormitory and faculty housing for a Talmudic academy.  The township rejected the academy's permit application and instead insisted that it apply for a zoning variance. Plaintiffs, believing that the land use decision was based on religious animus towards the Orthodox Jewish faith, sued claiming violations of RLUIPA, the Fair Housing Act, the 1st and 14th Amendments and state law.  The township argued that the suit should not be decided until plaintiffs had applied for a zoning variance.  The court held, however, that a variance application would not result in development of any additional factual record and that (except for one state law claim) plaintiffs can move ahead with their suit.