We previously posted about the case involving the O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal Church (UDV), which brought a federal lawsuit alleging violations under RLUIPA against the Board of County Commissioners of Santa Fe County after it denied the UDV’s application to build a 11,000 square foot temple on 2.5 acres of land. You may recall that members of the community were concerned about the UDV’s practice of sipping an Amazonian tea that causes those who drink it to hallucinate. UDV Vice President Tai Bixby said that when services end at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m., “the effect [of the tea] has diminished and I feel fine to drive.” The County denied the application out of concern for, among other things, the UDV’s vastly understated water budget, the effect of the Temple on the character of the neighborhood, and the potential for a neurotoxic hazard resulting from the tea surviving passage through septic tanks.”
On November 13, 2012, the UDV and the County reached a settlement agreement to resolve the lawsuit. According to the County’s press release:
“Under the settlement UDV will dismiss its pending lawsuit against [the County] and waive any claims for damages. The order previously denying the application will be withdrawn and an order approving the application will be prepared for approval by the Board in a subsequent meeting. The settlement provides a number of measures to address the concerns of residents in relation to the construction of the proposed Temple. Among them are the following: (i) the County will provide water supply for the proposed Temple from the County utility; (ii) the County will provide an advanced sewage waste treatment; (iii) the UDV will conduct all of its services inside the proposed Temple and will limit activities as described in a document attached to the settlement agreement; (iv) the UDV will construct a wall to shield the neighbors from sounds and activities at the proposed Temple (including the sounds of automobiles and automobile lights).”
Although the County’s press release is silent on the subject, the County will also pay the UDV “attorneys’ fees in an amount to be agreed to by the parties.” If the parties are unable to agree on the amount of fees to be paid, the court will decide the issue. To read the County’s statement, click here.
“Any settlement, particularly of a land use case, represents a compromise of hard fought positions by both parties, and a good settlement is one i[n] which neither party gets exactly what they want, but the matter is resolved without the risks, time and expense of further litigation,” said Santa Fe County attorney Stephen Ross.
To read the Settlement Agreement, click here.