Posted On: October 17, 2007

Second Circuit Rules RLUIPA Applies to Westchester Day School

In a significant decision regarding the application and interpretation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) the Second Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed the Southern District (Connor, J.) in finding that the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Village of Mamaroneck violated RLUIPA by denying a special permit to the Westchester Day School (see our March 6, 2006 Blog on the earlier decision).

The School is a Jewish day school which has been in existence for 60 years and applied for a modification of its special permit in order to construct a new classroom building. In upholding the District Court the Second Circuit, which had avoided ruling on the constitutionality of RLUIPA previously, held that the statute is constitutional.

In response to the argument that RLUIPA violates the Establishment Clause the Court held: “RLUIPA cannot be said to advance religion simply by requiring that states not discriminate against or among religious institutions.” The Court further found that RLUIPA was properly applied under the authority of the Commerce Clause as the 44,000 square foot nine million dollar building proposed to be constructed by the School implicated interstate commerce. The Court noted that even if the impact upon interstate commerce is minimal it is sufficient to meet that jurisdictional element.

The Court also held that the Tenth Amendment is not violated as RLUIPA does not compel states to take a particular action and they may still enact their own land use regulations. Finally, the Court declined to reach the issue of the application of the Fourteenth Amendment or the State causes of action.

The full text of the decision can be found at:
http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov:8080/isysnative/RDpcT3BpbnNcT1BOXDA2LTE0NjQtY3Zfb3BuLnBkZg==/06-1464-cv_opn.pdf#xml=http://10.213.23.

Posted On: October 13, 2007

Resolution Approving Consideration of Cluster Development Is Not Subject to Challenge

The appellate division dismissed a challenge to a town board resolution authorizing consideration of a cluster development in the case of Maor v. Town of Ramapo Planning Board, finding it was not a “final determination” subject to review.

Toll Brothers had applied to the planning board for a subdivision and submitted a conventional subdivision plat of 51 lots. The Planning Board referred the application to the Town Board to consider authorizing the Planning Board to treat the application as a cluster development, with a maximum permitted lot count of 51 lots, under Town Law section 278. The Town Board held a public hearing and adopted a resolution authorizing the Planning Board to consider a maximum 51 lot cluster development.

The petitioners brought a challenge claiming the resolution was contrary to law and had not been subject to review under the Environmental Conservation Law (SEQRA). The Court held the “determinations were preliminary steps in the approval process for a ‘cluster development’ subdivision and, as such, were not final determinations subject to judicial review….” Therefore, contrary to the claims of the petitioners, no SEQRA review would be necessary prior to the initial step of merely permitting consideration of a subdivision as a cluster development.