Haverstraw Town settles with Orthodox Congregation for $235,000
A federal lawsuit against the Town of Haverstraw Planning Board has reversed the denial of an application by K’Hal Bnei Torah to convert a local single-family home into a house of worship.
The lawsuit claimed that the Planning Board had violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). The Town agreed to settle the lawsuit for $235,000 to cover the applicant’s legal fees, and to approve the original plan with minor modifications.
RLUIPA is a federal law that generally prohibits a governmental entity from applying a land use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person or institution. The law provides for damages, injunctive relief, and requires the municipal government to pay the religious institutions’ legal fees if the municipal government is found to have violated the law, even without bad intent or malice.
Many residents expressed disappointment in the Town’s decision to settle, stating concerns about noise, garbage, and parking nuisances that arise when residential homes are turned into public houses of worship. Some urged the Town to keep fighting, not to be cowed by the threat of losing, and not to set a precedent.