Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 23, 2015

Fed. Dist. Court in MO Dismisses Homeless Shelter’s RLUIPA Claims as Unripe

Plaintiff New Life Evangelistic Center, Inc. (“New Life”) is an interdenominational Christian church and Missouri non-profit corporation that operates a homeless shelter in Saint Louis City (hereinafter the “Facility” or “NLEC”). According to New Life, the Facility houses on average between 225 and 250 individuals per night and, on a cold night, this number could be as high as 300 individuals. On March 16, 1976, the City issued New Life hotel permit No. 84777, which allowed New Life to provide 32 beds at the Facility. On April 26, 2013, a petition was submitted to the City’s Board of Public Service seeking a hearing before the Board to have the Facility declared a “detriment to the neighborhood” pursuant to Chapter 11.72.010 of the St. Louis City Revised Code. The Board declared the Facility a detriment to the neighborhood and revoked New Life’s Permit effective May 12, 2015, unless on or before that date New Life provided documentation that it was in compliance with the hotel permit’s 32–bed requirement for at least 30 days or that it had obtained the necessary permit and/or license to operate its facility. Rather than appeal this decision, New Life New filed this action against the City for declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages pursuant to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

In its analysis, the court first noted that in Williamson County, the Supreme Court held that “a claim that the application of government regulations effects a taking of a property interest is not ripe until the government entity charged with implementing the regulations has reached a final decision regarding the application of the regulations to the property at issue.” Here, the Board held it would revoke New Life’s hotel permit unless New Life provided documentation that it was in compliance with the hotel permit’s 32–bed requirement for at least 30 days, or that it had obtained the necessary permit and/or license to operate its facility. The Order granted a three-month grace period, from February 17, 2015, to May 12, 2015, in which New Life could have attempted to conform to one of those two options. Therefore, there was no claim of immediate injury. Moreover, since the court could not determine that the City definitively barred New Life from using the building as it wished until the City evaluated a completed application and determined how it will apply its land use regulations to the Facility, the futility exemption did not apply. Likewise, no hardship was found since New Life had failed to show an immediate injury. Accordingly, the court held that New Life’s RLUIPA claims were unripe.

New Life Evangelistic Center, Inc. v City of St. Louis, 2015 WL 6509338 (ED MO 10/27/2015)


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