Sunday, December 19, 2010

County Commission Says Denial of Increased Occupancy To Chabad House Does Not Violate RLUIPA

The Ventura County,California Planning Commission ruled Thursday that the county's Board of Supervisors did not violate the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act when it refused an application from Chabad of Oak Park to raise the occupancy limits for Jewish Sabbath and religious services at a converted house used by the group as a synagogue. According to the Ventura County Star, Chabad wants to raise the limits from 70 to 145, saying the building can safely hold that number. The Board of Supervisors says that Chabad agreed to the 70 person limit in 1994 when it negotiated for a permit for the house. Fire inspectors say the building can hold up to 168 people safely.  Chabad says its members, who do not drive on the Sabbath, cannot easily get to other religious services if they show up and find that 70 people are already attending. Even though the Planning Commission ruled 4-1 that the county had used the least restrictive means to carry out its compelling zoning interests, the Commission said it hoped that the Supervisors would decide to raise the occupancy limit over the current 70. Chabad says it is not interested in compromising on a number less than 145.