We previously reported on the case River Hills Community Church of Sauk Prairie v. Village of Sauk City, Wisconsin, No. 14-cv-48-wmc (D. Wisconsin 2014), in which River Hills Community Church sued the Village under RLUIPA, the U.S. Constitution, and state law after the Village denied its application to rezone property owned by a bank in an industrial zone from which it sought to operate. One of the Church’s more notable claims was its allegation that the Village’s zoning code violated RLUIPA’s equal-terms provision by treating churches less favorably than other assembly uses by requiring a minimum lot size of two acres for any church while other assembly uses – community centers, libraries, cultural use/centers, governmental uses, clubs, funeral homes, fraternities, lodges, and non-commercial meeting places – have no minimum lot size requirement. Last year, a New Jersey synagogue prevailed on similar claims in New Jersey state court (read more here).
The Village and the Church settled, agreeing that the Church can remain in the bank-owned building as a legal nonconforming use. In addition, the Village will pay the Church $60,000, paid by its insurance carrier, not the taxpayers. Compare this result, under different circumstances, with the Town of Greenburgh, NY, which late last year agreed to pay $6.5 million as part of an RLUIPA settlement, of which only $1 million was covered by insurance (for more on this story, click here).