Sunday, May 22, 2016

Another New Jersey Municipality's Restrictive Zoning, Land Use Rules Again At Issue In Federal Suit Brought By Orthodox Jewish Congregation Alleging Violations Of Fair Housing, Religious Land Use Acts

In Howell Township, New Jersey, reports:
  • An Orthodox Jewish congregation has filed a federal lawsuit against Howell Township and its zoning board of adjustment, saying the township's denial of its plan to build a religious education center was motivated by religious "hostility."

    Congregation Kollel and its land holding company filed the complaint Tuesday.

    The congregation, the lawsuit says says, wants to build a classroom building for teen-aged and young adult males studying to become future Orthodox leaders, a dormitory and townhouses for faculty.

    However, actions taken before and after the Kollel bought the property were designed specifically to prevent Orthodox facilities from being built in the township, the lawsuit says.

    Township Attorney McKenna Kingdon did not immediately return a request for comment.

    The new lawsuit is at least the fourth active case involving a religious group suing a New Jersey community over restrictive land-use rules. An Islamic Society is suing Bernards Township over its rejection of a proposed mosque, a decision that has attracted the attention of the U.S. Justice Department. Additionally, a Jewish community is suing Toms River over its rejection of a religious center and another is suing Ocean Township over its rejection of a proposed Yeshiva.

    The Kollel's lawyer, Christopher K. Costa, says in the lawsuit that the property the congregation bought last year on Ford Road was, at the time, in a zoning district that permitted educational facilities. The tract, at 344 Ford Road, is 10.1 acres, the lawsuit says.

    Howell Township Council in May of that year revised land-use requirements that "severely restricted" where schools could be located — a move motivated by "animus toward ultra-Orthodox Jews," it says.
    The 11-count suit cites the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the Fair Housing Act, the state constitution in seeking to void the township's land use ordinances; overturn the application's denial; prohibit new efforts to overburden religious exercise; and damages and costs.