In Biz Zone, City Cannot Prohibit Church But Allow Private Clubs

Monday, December 03, 2018 6:29 am
December 2018 - Volume 46 Number 12

A city zoning amendment was invalid under RLUIPA because it prohibited churches to operate in a business zone where it permitted private clubs, a nonreligious “comparator.”

Facts: The Elijah Group, Inc. (Elijah), a church, sued the City of Leon Valley, Texas, alleging that the city had violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) by amending its zoning code. Until March 2007, the city’s zoning code allowed churches to operate in B-2 business zones if they first obtained a special use permit. In March 2007, the city amended its zoning code to stimulate the local economy by creating a retail corridor on Bandera Road. The retail corridor is made up primarily of B-2 properties. One of the amendments eliminated the right of churches to obtain special use permits to operate in a B-2 zone. However, other non-retail, non-religious institutions like lodges were still allowed to obtain special use permits for B-2 zones.

In Janu[..]