Friday, December 17, 2010

Two New Hampshire Churches File RLUIPA Challenges To Zoning Denials

Today's Nashua (NH) Telegraph reports on two separate RLUIPA zoning lawsuits filed in federal district court in New Hampshire. In Merrimack Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses v. Town of Merrimack, (D NH, filed 12/16/2010) (full text of complaint), plaintiffs allege violations of RLUIPA and the state and federal equal protection clauses. They claim that their application for a special exception to locate in a residential area is the only application by a church to have been denied in 15 years. In Goffstown Harvest Christian Church v. Town of Goffstown, (D NH, filed 12/16/2010) (full text of complaint), plaintiffs claim that the town's amendment of its zoning ordinance to prohibit religious, but not non-religious, assemblies in areas zoned industrial violates RLUIPA, and the free exercise clauses and the equal protection clauses of the state and federal constitutions. New personnel on the Zoning Board of Adjustment refused to extend the church's site plan approval because they felt that the zoning changes were intended to encourage taxable industrial uses.