Posted by: Patricia Salkin | September 16, 2015

Fed. Dist. Court in MI Dismisses RLUIPA Claims on Ripeness Grounds

This case reviewed a motion for reconsideration of Defendant Pittsfield Charter Township against Plaintiff, Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor, doing business as Michigan Islamic Academy (“MIA”). The Township sought reconsideration of the Court’s March 20, 2015 decision granting summary judgment in its favor, with caveats, on both MIA’s RLUIPA claims and its constitutional claims. The Court granted summary judgment to the Township on the RLUIPA claims because MIA lacked an interest in the property at issue, and because MIA failed to ripen its claims by obtaining a final determination of the Zoning Administrator/Zoning Board of Appeals as to whether the proposed school could be built on the property as it was presently zoned. The Court granted summary judgment to the Township on MIA’s constitutional claims based on the ripeness rationale applicable to the RLUIPA claims.

The Court held that MIA may reassert its RLUIPA claims should it acquire a sufficient interest in the property, or, alternatively, the claims could be asserted by another person or entity with a sufficient interest in the property. The Court included this caveat because it would be unduly harsh to forever deprive the persons or entities with a sufficient interest in the property of the opportunity to vindicate their rights under RLUIPA. Since the statutes of limitation governing the claims in this case were four years (for the RLUIPA claims) and three years (for the constitutional claims), and this action had been pending for more than three years, the Court was also concerned that the statutes of limitation could preclude the assertion or reassertion of the claims brought in this case, which it deemed unjust under the present circumstances. However, in lieu of tolling the limitation periods, the court held that it would allow MIA to reassert the claims brought in this case, if at all, within 90 days of the date on which the Zoning Administrator/Zoning Board of Appeals issued a final decision determining whether the proposed school can be built on the property as it is presently zoned.

Finally the court held that even though MIA lacked an ownership interest in the property, it still had “permission … to utilize the property” likely constituting a license. Because MIA alleged that the Township unconstitutionally prevented its lawful use of the property, this constituted a redressable injury-in-fact for purposes of Article III standing.

Muslim Community Association of Ann Arbor v Pittsfield Charter Township, 2015 WL 5131797 (ED MI 6/1/2015)


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