Thursday, March 03, 2016

Church Wins In RLUIPA "Equal Terms" Challenge To Redevelopment Zone Limits

In Summit Church v. Randolph County Development Authority, (ND WV, March 2, 2016), a West Virginia federal district court held that the Randolph County (WV) Development Authority violated the "equal terms" provision of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act when it refused to sell property in a redevelopment project to a church.  The property was part of a former rail yard being redeveloped for mixed commercial use, reflecting the "the history and culture of the site." The court said in part:
The defendants wholly fail to attempt to define what they believe the “history and culture of the site” even is. It was a railyard.... Therefore, an operating train, a railroad museum or railroad-themed restaurant – which do exist in the current Elkins Railyard – theoretically make sense under the RCDA’s vision. The other existing establishments are nothing more than “medical tenants.... The northern portion of the Railyard... is morphing into something more akin to a medical park. The defendants have not shown, however, how a church would harm the Covenants’ objectives any more than the other permitted uses.