Editor’s Note: This summary is reposted with permission from the RLUIPA Defense Blog at: https://www.rluipa-defense.com/2016/09/ocean-nj-ordered-to-allow-yeshiva-boarding-school
In January of this year, Yeshiva Gedola Na’os Yaakov, Inc. (the “Yeshiva”) filed a 79-page complaint in federal court against the Township of Ocean, New Jersey, and the Township’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (the “Township) following the denial of an application to develop a yeshiva with boarding facilities for 96 male students between the ages 18 and 22 in a residential zone, to allow for advanced Talmudic study (the “School”). The Yeshiva had applied for a use variance, associated bulk variances, and site plan approval for the School, but the Board of Adjustment denied the application after conducting ten hearings over the course of a year and a half. The Yeshiva, among other arguments, pled that the Township’s zoning code was discriminatory because it prohibits religious boarding schools for students over the age of 18 in all districts. More details regarding the Yeshiva’s complaint are available in our prior post.
After a hearing on the Yeshiva’s motion for a preliminary injunction, the court ordered reversal of the Township’s denial, finding the proposed school is an “inherently beneficial use, and the denial of [the] application… a violation of RLUIPA.” The reasoning of the court is not provided since the parties waived findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court granted approval to operate a religious boarding school for no more than 80 students age 18 through 22, subject to several conditions, including:
- Compliance with site plans previously submitted to the Township;
- Prohibiting students from bringing cars on campus;
- Conversion of a gymnasium currently on site to a study hall;
- Applying for necessary building, electrical and plumbing permits, as well as meeting all ADA requirements; and
- Making a variety of minor site improvements (fencing, window coating, modification to a parking area, etc.).
The court also referred any claim for damages and attorney’s fees to mediation, but retained jurisdiction over the case until the Township issues a certificate of occupancy. The court’s order in Yeshiva Gedola Na’os Yaakov, Inc. v. Township of Ocean, New Jersey, Civ. No. 3:16-00096 (D. N.J. 2016) is available here.