Sunday, May 25, 2008

Federal Court Rejects Removal Of State Zoning Challenge

Friday's Aspen (CO) Times reports on the long battle by Grace Church in Emma, Colorado to build a new building on Highway 82. In 2005, Pitkn County commissioners denied the church's application, but then reversed their decision after the church filed a federal lawsuit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. Commissioners feared that otherwise the court would allow an even larger church building to be build. Neighbors of the new location, however, unhappy with the Commissioner's reversal, filed a lawsuit in state court claiming the commissioners failed to hold a public hearing on the project and violated the county's land-use code. In Emma Caucus Inc. v. Board of County Commissioners of the County of Pitkin, (D CO, May 21, 2008), the Colorado federal district court in which the RLUIPA case had been filed rejected Grace Church's attempt to remove the state court challenge to federal court. The district court said:
the state court complaint discloses that it has nothing to do with federal law, much less "arise under" federal law. It is a common-variety action to review an administrative zoning decision on the ground that the decision was an abuse of discretion, was procedurally defective, and failed to observe state and local laws concerning land use.