Religious group hits snag in quest for new temple

The Guru Nanak Sikh Society applied for a building permit toconstruct a temple that would seat 75 people on a 1.9-acre parcel on theoutskirts of town. But the neighbors protested because there would be considerabletraffic on the residential streets. The permit was denied.

To meet these objections, the members purchased a 28-acreparcel in an agricultural zone further away from the city. They applied for abuilding permit. The county planning commission granted the permit, subject to20 special conditions such as traffic mitigation.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

But a few neighbors appealed to the county board ofsupervisors, arguing this would be an undesirable “leapfrogdevelopment” away from the town. After a public hearing, the countyreversed the planning commission and denied the permit by a 4-0 vote.

Guru Nanak Sikh Society then sued the county for denying abuilding permit, claiming religious discrimination. The members allegedviolation of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act(RLUIPA) and the U.S. Constitution. They alleged their 75-seat temple would beaway from a residential or business area, and they would comply with the 20special conditions imposed by the county planning commission.

If you were the judge would you order the county to issuethe building permit?

The judge said yes!

The evidence shows the Guru Nanak Sikh Society has attemptedto be a good neighbor by complying with the requests of nearby residents bybuilding “out in the country” and complying with the 20 conditionsimposed by the planning commission, the judge began.

However, the county still denied the building permit, heexplained. The evidence clearly shows the county board of supervisors violatedRLUIPA and burdened the organization’s religious exercise, the judge continued.

The purpose of RLUIPA is to allow religious organizations toobtain building permits when they comply with reasonable conditions, heemphasized.

The argument that this would be a “leapfrogdevelopment” away from the town is insufficient reason to deny the permit,the judge ruled. Therefore, an injunction shall be issued requiring the countyto approve the building permit, the judge concluded.

Based on the 2006 U.S. Court of Appeals decision in GuruNanak Sikh Society of Yuba City v. County of Sutter, 456 Fed.3d 978.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center

Copyright 2006 Inman News

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