Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 25, 2019

Fed. Dist Court of IA Finds Chabad Rabbi’s RLUIPA Claims Were Unripe Due to Failure to First Seek a Special Permit

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

Plaintiff Schneur Cadaner is an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi who conducted various personal and public religious activities, including shabbat services, prayer, and bible studies from his home. Chabad Lubavitch, an Orthodox Jewish Hasidic movement that the Rabbi was a member of, advertised these services to the public on its website. Plaintiffs’ house was located in an R-1 Single-Family Residence District that required a special use permit for houses of worship. The City sent three letters to Rabbi Cadaner regarding the Chabad and the use of the house for religious services. The first two letters stated that Plaintiffs need a special use permit or variance from the Board of Adjustment in order to use the property as a house of worship. The third stated that Plaintiffs might need a business license for home occupation. After the first two letters were sent, the Bettendorf City Council approved a new zoning scheme that allowed houses of worship in R-1 districts as a right.

Plaintiff brought several claims, contended the zoning code was unconstitutionally limiting them from using their property as a house of worship to host religious services. Plaintiffs did not allege they sought a special use permit, variance, license, or otherwise attempted to follow up with the City in order to obtain a decision as to their use of the land, nor receive any fines or other adverse actions. As Plaintiffs failed to obtain a final decision as to the use of their land, the Court found that their RLUIPA claim was not ripe and should be dismissed. The Court further held that Williamson County’s finality rule also applied to Plaintiffs’ claims under the Iowa Constitution, and that those claims were therefore unripe as well. Accordingly, Defendants’ Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings was granted.

Chabad Lubavitch of the Quad Cities, Inc. v. City of Bettendorf, 2019 WL 2754711 (SD IA 7/2/2019)

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