Religious Group Hits Snag in Quest for New Temple

October 25, 2006

Author: Robert J. Bruss

Source: New York House

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

To meet these objections, the members purchased a 28-acre parcel in an agricultural zone further away from the city. They applied for a building permit. The county planning commission granted the permit, subject to 20 special conditions such as traffic mitigation.

But a few neighbors appealed to the county board of supervisors, arguing this would be an undesirable "leapfrog development" away from the town. After a public hearing, the county reversed the planning commission and denied the permit by a 4-0 vote.

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