Fair Housing Act Meets RLUIPA in Georgia

Late last month, an addiction ministry known as Vision Warriors Church, Inc. sued the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners under the Fair Housing Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, RLUIPA, and the U.S. Constitution.  According to the complaint, the Church provides “a faith-based community for men recovering from addiction that focuses on accountability and transparency in an effort to help men to be better Disciples of Christ, fathers, husbands, leaders and friends.”  It does so by offering support services for 20-30 men to overcome addiction through a residential program, weekly services and faith-based meetings.  In 2017, the Church purchased property located at 1709 Old Country Place, Woodstock, Georgia from another ministry called Happy Acres Mission Transit Center.  Happy Acres operated there for approximately 35 years and, with local zoning approval, provided temporary housing to missionaries, had a worship/assembly hall, dormitories with kitchen facilities, an auto repair shop, and storage building.  The Church alleges that it purchased the property following assurances from the Zoning Administrator that its use would be permitted.  After operating for approximately 4 months, the Church claims that the County prevented it from operating in response to neighborhood opposition in an attempt to close the Church’s doors. Continue Reading

Upcoming Webinar – What the Supreme Court’s Knick Decision Did and Did Not Change

The Planning and Law Division (PLD) of the American Planning Association, in partnership with APA Learn, is pleased to host the upcoming webcast What the Supreme Court’s Knick Decision Did and Did Not Change on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. ET.

In June, a divided Supreme Court overturned part of a longstanding precedent that generally required plaintiffs alleging unconstitutional takings to first try and fail to obtain compensation under state law before pursuing a federal takings claim. Property rights activists celebrated their one-vote win, but as a practical matter does the decision really change things for planners?

Speakers include John Baker, Esq. of Greene Espel PLLP and Deborah Rosenthal, Esq., FAICP of FitzGerald, Yap & Kreditor LLP

Registration for individual PLD members is $20, $30 for APA (non-PLD) members, and $60 for non-APA/non-PLD members.  Group rates are also available.  Registration is open through July 30, 2019.  Register Here.

CM I 1.50 I Law
CLE 1.50 through Illinois State Bar

The Supreme Court’s decision in Knick v. Township of Scott is available here.

SCOTUS Overrules “State Compensation” Ripeness Requirement for Takings Claims

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Knick v. Township of Scott.  In a 5-4 decision, the Court overruled the requirement that property owners first pursue takings claims in state court before bringing a takings claims under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution in federal court.  That requirement (known as ripeness) was established in Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank, 473 U.S. 172 (1985).  In the wake of Knick, property owners may now bring Fifth Amendment takings claims directly in federal court without first going to state court.  The majority opinion was authored by Justice Roberts and joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh.  Justice Thomas wrote a concurring opinion.  Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, dissented.

The decision in Knick v. Township of Scott is available here.

Supreme Court Refuses to Take Tree of Life RLUIPA Case

Last week, the United States Supreme Court denied Tree of Life Christian Schools’ petition for certiorari involving its longstanding religious dispute with Upper Arlington, Ohio (City).  In 2009, Tree of Life purchased a commercially-zoned 254,000 square foot office building that it hoped to convert to a religious school.  After the City denied a conditional use permit, Tree of Life sued under RLUIPA.  The Sixth Circuit ruled that the City did not treat Tree of Life worse than secular uses in violation of RLUIPA’s equal terms provision, since the City had a valid basis for denial: permitting the religious school in this large office building would be counter to the City’s goal of enhancing revenue generation in this zoning district.  (See our prior post about the case here).

There was some speculation that the Court could take the case.  Bloomberg Law previewed Tree of Life’s petition in its story Supreme Court Shortlister’s Dissent Could Help Christian School in which I am quoted.  Tree of Life argued in its petition that the Court should take its case because lower courts across the country “are in disarray on the proper test for a RLUIPA equal-terms claim.” In the end, clarification of the equal terms provision is left for another day.

Tree of Life’s petition is available here.

Church Ministering to Homeless/Needy Can Proceed with Most of its Religious Discrimination Claims

A United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee recently ruled that Layman Lessons Church and Welcome Baptist Church, Inc. (“Layman Lessons”) can move forward with most, but not all, of its religious discrimination claims against Metropolitan Government of Nashville/Davidson County (“Nashville”).  The dispute arose in 2018, when Layman Lessons claims that Nashville used local building and zoning laws to prevent it from ministering to the poor and homeless on commercially zoned property located at 1455 Neelys Bend Road, Madison, Tennessee (“Property”).  Layman Lessons provides food, clothing, shelter, a mobile shower and laundry center, transportation, life skills training, and spiritual and recovery counseling to the poor and homeless.  It alleges that Nashville discriminated against it by refusing to allow it to use the Property to serve the poor and homeless in a variety of ways, including by delaying its religious use of the Property; preventing mobile food pantries in the paved parking area; issuing fabricated stop work orders, even though Layman Lessons was not violating any law; recommending demolition of Layman Lessons’ storage barn; refusing to correct an illegal storm water pipe that flooded the Property; and interfering with Layman Lessons’ existing contract with its landlord to conduct religious activities, operate mobile food pantries; and provide laundry services to the homeless. Continue Reading

Upcoming Webinar – How Land Use and Natural Resource Regulations are Shaping the Legal Cannabis Industry

The Planning and Law Division (PLD) of the American Planning Association is pleased to host the upcoming webcast How Land Use and Natural Resource Regulations are Shaping the Legal Cannabis Industry on Thursday, March 21, 2019 from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. EST.  The program will explore how various land use and natural resource regulations shape the development of the legal cannabis industry. The scope of the conversation will range from regulatory options municipalities may consider as the legal cannabis industry develops to how individual businesses are fostered or stifled as a result of certain regulations. One goal of this webinar is to help practitioners identify key cannabis industry issues they should consider in working with either government officials or business owners.

Speakers include Erin Lapeyrolerie, PLD’s 2018-19 Curtin Fellow, Karla Chaffee, Esq., Counsel for Robinson & Cole LLP in Boston, Sunshine Lencho, Esq., Senior Associate at Hinman & Carmichael LLP in San Francisco, Joanna Hossack, Esq., Associate at Clark Neubert LLP in Sacramento and San Francisco, and Christina Sava, Managing Attorney at Anthony Law Group in Oakland.

Registration for individual PLD members is $20 and $45 for non-members.  Registration for two or more people at one computer is $140.

Register here.

Chabad House for Towson University and Goucher College Files Lawsuit Alleging RLUIPA Violations Following State Court Order to Demolish Newly-Constructed Addition

The Chabad House for Towson University and Goucher College, pictured above, has filed a lawsuit against Baltimore County, Maryland (the “County”), following a state court order requiring demolition of a newly-constructed addition to the Chabad House. The Complaint alleges, among other things, violations of RLUIPA’s substantial burden, equal terms, nondiscrimination, and exclusions and limitations provisions. Continue Reading

New Jersey Islamic Group’s Religious Discrimination Claims May Proceed, Rules Federal Court

Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) reported on the case of Garden State Islamic Center v. City of Vineland.  The case involves Garden State Islamic Center’s plans to build a mosque.  The United States filed a Statement of Interest in the case to address the issue of what qualifies as a “land use regulation” under RLUIPA.  RLUIPA applies only to land use regulations, which the statute defines as “a zoning or landmarking law, or the application of such a law, that limits or restricts a claimant’s use or development of land (including a structure affixed to land), if the claimant has an ownership, leasehold, easement, servitude, or other property interest in the regulated land or a contract or option to acquire such an interest.”  The issue centered around whether a municipal sewage regulation was a land use regulation invoking RLUIPA. Continue Reading

4th Circuit Rules Ethnic Bias Gives Rise to RLUIPA Claim

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed a lower court’s decision dismissing a church’s religious discrimination claims.  In doing so, the Fourth Circuit found that the church had properly alleged claims under RLUIPA based in part on the community’s ethnic bias against the church’s connection to associated church’s in Kenya, as well as the fact that many of the church’s congregants were born in Africa.  (We previously posted about the case here). Continue Reading

7th Circuit Rules Church’s RLUIPA Claims Against Markham, Illinois Ripe for Review

The Seventh Circuit recently reversed a district court’s decision finding a church’s RLUIPA claims were unripe and moot because it was granted parking variances and a conditional use permit after the church brought suit.  The case involves the Church of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (“Church”).  For the past 15 years, the Church has gathered at a residential home in the City of Markham’s R-3 One-Family Residential District for worship services, choir rehearsals, and Bible studies.  In 2012, as the Church’s congregation grew and its religious activities expanded, it remodeled the garage into a chapel.  The work consisted of installing a new roof, new windows, and pews at a cost of about $40,000.  Months after the Church completed this work the City of Markham brought an injunction against the Church to have the Church apply for a conditional use permit for its expanded religious activities.  The City denied the conditional use permit and the Church sued, alleging violations of RLUIPA’s equal terms, substantial burden, and unreasonable limits provisions and Illinois’ Religious Freedom Restoration Act (see our prior post about this case here). Continue Reading

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