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ZBA Failed to Accommodate Religious Use by Denying Special Permit and Variance

The Appellate Division upheld the lower court’s reversal of the denial of a special permit and a parking variance for a church use. In the Matter of Gospel Faith Mission International, Inc., v. Weiss, the Court found the ZBA was arbitrary in denying the application due to the fact that “greater flexibility” is to be applied to applications by religious organizations. This rule is based upon New York law not the often cited Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) which does not appear to have been raised in this case.

In reversing the ZBA the Court stated:

“Here, the record reflects that the Board voted to deny the petitioner’s applications without making any attempt to accommodate the proposed religious use (see Matter of Harrison Orthodox Minyan v Town Bd. of Harrison, 159 AD2d 572, 573). The petitioner suggested conditions for the limitation of its use in order to mitigate the impact on the surrounding community. However, despite the conditions proposed by the petitioner, the Board denied the petitioner’s applications in their entirety, even though the proposed religious use could have been substantially accommodated…”

-Steven Silverberg