A federal court in New York has dismissed religious discrimination and related claims alleged by an evangelical Christian church (the “Church”) against the Town of Colonie, New York, its agencies and officials (the “Town”), in connection with conditions of approval imposed by the Town on the Church. The Church sought zoning approval to construct a 36,000 square foot facility to accommodate its membership and expand its religious worship and educational services. For a detailed discussion of the facts, read our 2014 post here.
The Church challenged the following conditions of approval imposed by the Town that limited the Church’s use of the property:
- Service times shall be a minimum of two hours apart from start to start
- Sunday service times shall be limited to up to three services without additional Planning Board review
- Weekday service times shall start no earlier than 6:30 PM
The court dismissed the Church’s RLUIPA, constitutional, and state law claims as unripe for failure to obtain a final zoning decision. The Church had submitted an application to amend the conditions, but abandoned the application before obtaining a final decision. The Church asserted that continuing the zoning process would be futile; the court rejected this argument because the Church requested and received an opportunity to seek an amendment of the zoning conditions that the Church later decided not to pursue. The fact that the Church had been put through the zoning process for 20 months did not establish that seeking further zoning relief would be futile. Likewise, the Church’s conclusory allegations of bias and hostility, which the Church contended meant that any application would result in denial, did not excuse the Church’s failure to obtain a final zoning decision.
The decision in Life Covenant Church, Inc. v. Town of Colonie (Northern District of New York, 2017) is available here.