Thursday, January 20, 2011

Court Holds Exhaustion Not Required In RLUIPA Zoning Cases

In United States v. City of Walnut, California, (CD CA, Jan. 13, 2011), a California federal district court held that RLUIPA does not require plaintiffs in land use cases to exhaust administrative remedies before filing suit to challenge a zoning decision. The case involves a suit by the United States challenging the City of Walnut's refusal to grant a conditional zoning permit to a Zen Buddhist Center. The city's Planning Commission denied the permit and the city advised the Zen Center that an appeal would be pointless because of an upcoming municipal election. Nevertheless the Center sent the city a letter explaining its objections to the Planning Commission decision. While broadly rejecting an exhaustion requirement, the court went on to observe that even if private plaintiffs were required to exhaust their administrative remedies, the United States would not be bound by the Zen Center's failure to exhaust. Yesterday's San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports on the decision.