Posted by: Patricia Salkin | April 5, 2015

IL Appeals Court Dismisses RLUIPA Equal Terms and Nondiscrimination Claims Due to Lack of Comparators

This case was an appeal resulting from the City of Evanston’s decision to deny a zoning application by plaintiff, Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov Elementary School (JDBY), to rezone a parcel of industrial property in Evanston so that JDBY could use the site for a parochial elementary school. After the denial of its application, JDBY sued Evanston, asserting claims under the “equal terms” and “nondiscrimination” provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA).  The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Evanston on the equal terms claim and entered judgment in favor of Evanston on the nondiscrimination claim.  JDBY appealed.

The court stated that even assuming that JDBY’s nonreligious comparators are “assemblies,” they were not suitable comparators to JDBY from the standpoint of RLUIPA.  JDBY was denied a map amendment changing the zoning of the Hartrey property from I2 to C1, and was not similar to its nonreligious comparators whose zoning was changed from I2 to other zoning designations. Unlike its nonreligious comparators, the removal of the Hartrey property from the property tax rolls would deprive Evanston of hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in property tax revenue. The generation of tax revenues rendered JDBY, which was not subject to property taxes, dissimilar to its nonreligious comparators who were subject to such taxes. As to the nondiscrimination claim, the court’s finding in favor of Evanston on this claim was not against the manifest weight of the evidence because it was based on credible evidence.

Accordingly, both of JDBY’s claims were dismissed and the judgment of the trial court was affirmed.

Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov Elementary School-Yeshivas Tigeres Tzva v City of Evanston, 2015 IL App. (1st) 121809-U (unpub. 3/6/2015)

The opinion can be accessed at:

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