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Uses Houses of worship in multi-family dwellings

ChairmanMeow

Cyburbian
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61
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3
A nearby town is proposing an amendment to the zoning law regarding houses of worship and I'm curious what other planning people think of this. I did a quick search and haven't (yet) found similar amendments/statues to this.

to consider the adoption of a local law entitled “A LOCAL LAW AMENDING LOCAL LAW NO. 10 – 2004 (ZONING), AS AMENDED, TO PERMIT HOUSES OF WORSHIP IN MULTI-FAMILY DWELLINGS”

The full text is also here: https://bit.ly/2DbllkM

Section 1. Legislative Intent The Zoning Law currently prohibits the use of a portion of a multi-family dwelling for a House of Worship. The Town wishes to permit a House of Worship to be located in a portion of a multi-family dwelling subject to site plan approval. The bulk requirements shall be the use group for the multi-family dwelling in which the House of Worship is located.

Section 2. Amend Section 376-5 “Definitions” by adding the following definition: “Neighborhood House of Worship – A portion of a multi-family dwelling used exclusively for the conduct of organized religious services. No school or outside catering is permitted. At least seventy-five (75) percent of the membership must live within a three quarter mile radius of the House of Worship. The bulk requirements shall be the use group for the multi-family dwelling in which the House of Worship is located.”

Section 3. Amend Section 376-31, Table of General Use Requirements, Part I: Residential districts, Column B “uses permitted by right” and Column B-1 “use Group,” R-15, by adding the following:
Column B: 8. Neighborhood House of Worship Column B-1: *See Section 376-5 for Bulk Requirement.

Section 4. Amend Section 376-31, Table of General Use Requirements, Part I: Residential districts, Column B “uses permitted by right” and Column B-1 “use Group,” R-15A, by adding the following:
Column B: 4. Neighborhood House of Worship Column B-1: *See Section 376-5 for Bulk Requirement.

Section 5. Amend Section 376-31, Table of General Use Requirements, Part I: Residential districts, Column B “uses permitted by right” and Column B-1 “use Group,” R-15C, by adding the following:
Column B: 8. Neighborhood House of Worship Column B-1: *See Section 376-5 for Bulk Requirement.

Section 6. Amend Section 376-31, Table of General Use Requirements, Part I: Residential Districts Column F “minimum off-street parking spaces” by adding the following: 3(A) Neighborhood House of Worship As determined by the Planning Board.
 
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DVD

Cyburbian
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13,755
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A lot of this depends on the reason why they are allowing it. My city has cumulative zoning so we allow churches in residential zones with conditions which means they are also allowed in multi-family zones with conditions. They aren't a by right use until you get to commercial zones. It's also important to remember that churches should be allowed in the same manner as any assembly use. So if a movie theater or community center is allowed by right then the church should be as well.

What it comes down to...In a city like mine it means nothing because it's not like you're going to get a church in an apartment complex, but if there is a big piece of empty land we can allow it.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
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In my opinion, RLUIPA doesn't allow religious congregations to ignore zoning, and go anywhere and do anything they want. Unless something has changed, the way I always interpreted the law was that zoning has to treat religious congregations the same as similar congregational uses -- fraternal lodges, private clubs, community centers, and the like. If you don't allow a fraternal lodge in a multi-family building, it's okay if you don't allow a religious congregation. If you allow a fraternal lodge, you have to allow religous assembly uses with a similar impact.

This is the part I find troubling

"seventy-five (75) percent of the membership must live within a three quarter mile radius of the House of Worship."

That's a restraint on the free exercise of religion. It's not a problem for a small Haredi Jewish congregation whose membership is mostly within walking distance or an eruv. For a small congregation from another faith, where strict Shabbat restrictions are irrelevant, it's a problem -- you're forcing members to live close to the sanctuary, or restricting membership.

I've always been reluctant to bring up religious gatherings as a residential accessory use. Where's the fine line between a small Christian service and Wednesday night Bible study that rotates from house to house? What about a small Quaker meeting, where worship is silent? For Orthodox Jews, if there isn't a formal minyan of 10 men, it's not a service, according to Talmudic law.

I'd also avoid the "Neighborhood House of Worship" terminology, unless it has a very broad and inclusive definition in your code. Newer codes use "place of worship or assembly". If you have a UU congregation, humanist congregation, or atheist assembly where there's no real worship, there could be a problem.
 

ChairmanMeow

Cyburbian
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61
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That's a restraint on the free exercise of religion. It's not a problem for a small Haredi Jewish congregation whose membership is mostly within walking distance or an eruv. For a small congregation from another faith, where strict Shabbat restrictions are irrelevant, it's a problem -- you're forcing members to live close to the sanctuary, or restricting membership.
Thought-provoking.

On a related note there have been some eruv issue locally in the past year too.
 

Dan

Dear Leader
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On a related note there have been some eruv issue locally in the past year too.
Is it the interpretation of "eruv" as being a visible barrier, and there's no overhead utilities in some areas where there might be eruv boundaries? Opposition from people who believe it's some official imposition of a "ghetto"? Concern over a potential demographic shift?

/Not very observant. Just another planner.
 

B'lieve

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No thoughts this late about the main topic here, but on the side topic, after googling "eruv"...wow, Baltimore's eruv is huge. Basically an entire cluster of neighborhoods, and it appears to use the light-rail's overhead power lines and an elevated section of the subway as parts of its boundary--pretty clever.
 

kjel

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I've heard some stuff about that. Some issue with things spilling over into Tom's River?

I feel really conflicted about RLUIPA. It's really good in some ways (see:
https://patch.com/new-jersey/mahwah/mahwah-violated-rampough-tribes-religious-rights-justice-dept) and so abused other times.
In general RLUIPA works as it's intended. However, in some instances it can be exploited (Ramapo and Lakewood) and also an eminent domain case that I was involved in 10 years ago where someone who didn't want to accept the offer, negotiate in good faith, or otherwise cooperate claimed they were a "reverend" and the derelict building was a "church". Eventually he lost, but it slowed things down considerably.
 
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