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A lawsuit just filed in federal court alleges that Jackson Township's new shul ordinance - which was adopted as a result of settlement agreements with Agudath Israel and the U.S. Justice Department - still discriminates against such religious land uses as compared to nonreligious assembly and/or institutional land uses in the Township.

The lawsuit was filed by Rabbi Abraham and Hana Matzliach who are appealing the Zoning Board's denial of their Use Variance which sought to convert their detachable garage into "habitable space."

At the public hearing they insisted that the habitable space was as "a recreation room for family life." In their new lawsuit however, they are asserting that their application for "daily living space" was intended to "include home worship," as they "pray in this additional home space as part of their daily life."

The Board's denial of their application - which was based on the fact that the garage is detached and therefore only permitted for the accessory uses of parking and storage - "discriminates against religious land use generally and specifically against Orthodox Jewish religious practice," the suit charges.

The complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey by Freehold Attorneys Sieglinde K. Rath and Christopher K. Costa, Esq. of Storzer & Associates, P.C. further challenges that the Township's amended land use regulations with respect to “churches and places of worship" - which was borne as a settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department and Agudath Israel - still discriminates against such religious land uses, as compared to nonreligious assembly and/or institutional land uses.

The Township's new shul ordinance requires a greater minimum lot width, a greater front setback, a greater side yard setback than comparable secular permitted uses in the R-20 zone, including municipal parks, playgrounds and other such municipal buildings and uses, Federal, state, county and other public buildings and grounds, including parks, playgrounds or other public recreational uses, and essential services.

The new shul ordinance restricts a lot from having sole frontage on residential access or residential neighborhood street or any lower order street. The ordinance also requires a landscaped buffer, and that the applicant shall submit a list of proposed activities and anticipated participants, a timetable reflecting the hours in which each building will be used and any other pertinent uses and activities intended to take place on the site.

In contrast, the comparable secular permitted uses listed above do not have any such limitations and requirements.

Other comparable secular permitted uses in the R-20 zone, including community residences for the developmentally disabled, community shelters for the victims of domestic violence, and family day-care homes are subject to an even less stringent standard than shuls. They are permitted on smaller lots sizes, lesser lot widths, front, side, and rear setbacks, have a greater maximum lot coverage.

They also do not have any limitation on street frontage, there is no buffer requirement, and lastly, there is no requirement to submit a list of anticipated participants or a timetable.

Comparable secular conditional uses in the R-20 zones, such as quasi-public and private club recreation areas and child care centers are subject to even less stringent standards.

The Code imposes a bifurcated standard for churches and places of worship in many zones, inflicting more stringent bulk requirements for lots greater than two acres. No other use in the Township has more stringent bulk standards imposed if a larger lot is used.

In all zones, the Code mandates that a church or place of worship requires a one acre lot. Minimum lot area requirements for various other non-religious assembly and institutional land uses in the Township are less onerous than for churches.

"Accordingly, as with the prior version of the Township’s zoning code, its amended code continues to treat religious land uses differently and worse than various nonreligious assembly and institutional land uses," the complaint alleges.

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Anonymous said...

They are never satisfied!!

Anonymous said...

Mr matzliach cannot afford thos lawsuit. Someone is paying for it. Is it the agudah?

Anonymous said...

This is a private law suit, not aguda!