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What is the RLUIPA?

Zoning conflicts can come in many shapes and sizes, from whether or not a developer is allowed to build certain kind of home in a specific location to what kinds of businesses are allowed to operate in a given space, and many more. One area that has produced many conflicts over the last decade or so is the implementation of the The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, known as the RLUIPA, removes the ability of local agencies to enforce land use regulations that would place an “undue burden” upon religious organizations engaging in their respective practices and religious uses. Practically speaking, this often becomes complicated when churches and other religious organizations choose a shopping center or other non-traditional location such as business or industrial parks.

Because of the wide-reaching authority of RLUIPA, religious organizations are often given what amounts to a free pass against use restrictions that their non-religious co-tenants are not afforded. It is easy to see how this can create many tense relationships among the businesses and other tenants in, say, a shopping center with a dentist office, several department stores, a restaurant and a church, all but one of whom are required to abide by land use restrictions.

The RLUIPA is not infallible, however. It does allow for regulations to be placed on religious organizations when those regulations are in the service of a compelling government interest, and it is demonstrable that they are the least restrictive way to achieve this end goal.

Whatever the situation may be, land use is often a complicated matter that requires a great deal of familiarity with the relevant local and federal statutes. If you have any further questions about a zoning or use issue, an attorney with experience in zoning issues can help you explore your options and guide you to an equitable solution.

Source: CCIM, “Contemporary Zoning Conflicts,” Kristina Daniel Lawson, accessed Sep. 22, 2016


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