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Representative Matters

AL MADANY ISLAMIC CENTER OF NORWALK, INC. V. CITY OF NORWALK, CONN. ALBANIAN ASSOCIATED FUND V. TOWNSHIP OF WAYNE, N.J. AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE V. PRISON FELLOWSHIP MINISTRIES BENSALEM MASJID V. BENSALEM TOWNSHIP, PA BERKOWITZ V. EAST RAMAPO CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, N.Y. BETHEL WORLD OUTREACH MINISTRIES V. MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MD. BIKUR CHOLIM, INC. V. VILLAGE OF SUFFERN, N.Y. BUDDHIST EDUCATION CENTER OF AMERICA, INC., V. CITY OF VIRGINIA BEACH, VA. CHABAD JEWISH CENTER OF TOMS RIVER V. TOWNSHIP OF TOMS RIVER, N.J. CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY CHAPEL WESLEYAN CHURCH V. TOWNSHIP OF HILLSBOROUGH CONAWAY V. DEANE CONGREGATION HEICHEL DOVID CONGREGATION KOLLEL, INC. V. TOWNSHIP OF HOWELL, N.J. CONGREGATION MISCHKNOIS LAVIER YAKOV V. BOARD OF TRUSTEES FOR THE VILLAGE OF AIRMONT, N.Y. CONGREGATION RABBINICAL COLLEGE OF TARTIKOV V. VILLAGE OF POMONA, N.Y. COPTIC ORTHODOX CHURCH ARCHDIOCESE OF NORTH AMERICA V. ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT OF TOWNSHIP OF CEDAR GROVE, N.J. DAYALBAGH RADHASOAMI SATSANG ASSOCIATION OF NORTH AMERICA V. TOWNSHIP OF OLD BRIDGE, N.J. EAGLE COVE CAMP & CONFERENCE CENTER V. TOWN OF WOODBORO, WISC. FAITH TEMPLE CHURCH V. TOWN OF BRIGHTON, N.Y. FIRST PENTECOSTAL UNITED HOLY CHURCH V. CITY OF CHESAPEAKE, VIRGINIA FISHERMEN OF MEN CHURCH, APPLICATION OF, D.C. GREAT LAKES SOCIETY V. GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, MICH. GREENWICH REFORM SYNAGOGUE V. TOWN OF GREENWICH, CONN. GURU GOBIND SINGH SIKH CENTER V. TOWN OF OYSTER BAY, N.Y. HARBOR MISSIONARY CHURCH V. CITY OF SAN BUENAVENTURA, CAL. HINDU TEMPLE AND CULTURAL SOCIETY OF USA V. BRIDGEWATER TOWNSHIP, N.J. MOXLEY V. TOWN OF WALKERSVILLE, MD. NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR AMISH RELIGIOUS FREEDOM NAVAJO NATION V. UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE NEW BEGINNINGS CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP V. TOWNSHIP OF BRICK PARAMESWARAN V. MYSOREKAR RIVERDALE BAPTIST CHURCH V. ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MD. ROCKY MOUNTAIN CHRISTIAN CHURCH V. BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF BOULDER COUNTY SAHANSRA V. WESTCHESTER COUNTY HEALTH CARE CORPORATION SPIRIT OF ALOHA TEMPLE V. COUNTY OF MAUI ST. JOHN UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST V. INDIANAPOLIS HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION, IND. ST. JOHN´S UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST V. CITY OF CHICAGO THAI MEDITATION ASSOCIATION OF ALABAMA V. CITY OF MOBILE PLANNING COMMISSION THIRD CHURCH OF CHRIST, SCIENTIST V. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA HISTORIC PRESERVATION REVIEW BOARD TROTMAN V. BEN GILMAN SPRING VALLEY MEDICAL AND DENTAL CLINIC VALLEY CHABAD V. BOROUGH OF WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. YESHIVA GEDOLA NA'OS YAAKOV V. OCEAN TWP., N.J.

Yeshiva Gedola Na'os Yaakov v. Ocean Twp., N.J.

08/26/2016: S&A client Yeshiva Gedola Na'os Yaakov successful in federal court action

A federal judge allowed a Jewish boarding school to be sited in a residential neighborhood in Ocean Township after concluding the town's refusal was a violation of the yeshiva's religious rights.  [The court] said Yeshiva Gedola Na'os Yaakov "is deemed an inherently beneficial use" and that the Ocean Township board of adjustment's denial of an application for a use variance and a site plan is a violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

"Federal court says yeshiva can be in residential neighborhood," NJ.com (Aug. 26, 2016)
Rabbi Avi Schnall, Agudath Israel's New Jersey director, said,  "This decision makes a statement that the religious liberties of institutions and individuals will be defended even in the face of opposition. It also sends a clear message that our religious rights will not be trampled upon and we hope this will serve as an example to other municipalities."  Rabbi Schnall continued "Agudath Israel is proud to have worked together with the Yeshiva and its attorney and is delighted with this positive outcome.
"Agudath Israel Hails Federal Court Ruling That Denial of Variances for Yeshiva Violates RLUIPA," Agudath Israel (Aug. 26, 2016)

A subtext of the opposition to the project was the fear that Ocean Township could become, as some have said, “another Lakewood.” Under RLUIPA, however, such fears can’t be the basis for zoning decisions, said Perry Dane, a Rutgers constitutional law expert who specializes in religious issues. The law requires local communities to have a “compelling interest” to justifying barring a particular religious group from coming into a town, and all groups are to be treated equally, he said. “Yes, there are powerful protections (in the law), but they are necessary ones,” Dane said.

S. Mullen, "Ruling allows Ocean Twp. yeshiva, dorm,"  Asbury Park Press (Aug. 26, 2016)

08/02/2016: Hamodia reports on S&A cases

“This is bigotry masked as a zoning hearing, pure and simple,” said Roman P. Storzer, attorney for the yeshivah, in advance of the proceedings. “The situation that the yeshivah has faced here is exactly why Congress decided that RLUIPA’s protections are necessary.” . . . “It’s a sad state of affairs that these local jurisdictions try to erect walls around Lakewood through land-use laws.”

Rabbi Moshe Gourarie of Toms River is engaged in litigation for his town’s insistence on a variance to operate the Chabad house he has led for over a decade. He, too, is represented by Mr. Storzer’s firm, which specializes in religious land-use cases. There, Mr. Storzer said that facts around the events made it difficult to attribute opposition to the concerns of noise pollution and traffic that have been cited.  “[A] few weeks ago he had a swastika painted on his driveway. It’s hard to say that that hostility has a secular basis.”

M. WIncorn, "NJ Yeshivah Fights Zoning Denial in Federal Court," Hamodia (Aug. 2, 2016)

07/07/2016: Agudath Israel of America asks court to consider amicus brief supporting S&A client Yeshiva Gedola Na'os Yaakov

In a federal lawsuit pitting a major yeshiva against a local zoning board, Agudath Israel of America is contending that the board’s refusal to grant the yeshiva certain zoning variances necessary for the yeshiva to operate is motivated by a political cave-in to anti-charedi bias.

Elements within the community mounted virulent resistance to the application, organizing an effort around the theme, clearly meant to impart a message beyond this specific application, that the yeshiva should “Stay in Lakewood.” The Zoning Board, apparently sympathetic to that sentiment, dragged out the variance application process for well over a year, ultimately denying the application on nebulous grounds. The grounds for denial were cited as “noise,” “safety,” and the vague claim that use of the three-acre parcel for a yeshiva would be more “intense” than as a single family residence. There was ample evidence, however, that the true motivation for the variance denial was a desire to mollify the anti-chareidi elements who waged a campaign on social media and packed every public meeting in their efforts to keep the yeshiva community out of Ocean Township.

The proposed Agudath Israel brief was written by attorney Ronald D. Coleman, a partner in the firm Archer & Greiner, P.C., and argues that the Township’s denial of a variance constitutes a violation of the First Amendment and RLUIPA.

"Agudath Israel to NJ Federal Court: Ocean Township Zoning Board Violates Yeshiva’s Rights" (July 8, 2016)

Elements within the community, however, mounted virulent resistance to the application, organizing an effort around the theme, clearly meant to impart a message beyond this specific application, that the yeshiva should “Stay in Lakewood.” The Zoning Board, apparently sympathetic to that sentiment, dragged out the variance application process for well over a year, ultimately denying the application on nebulous grounds. The grounds for denial were cited as “noise,” “safety,” and the vague claim that use of the three-acre parcel for a yeshiva would be more “intense” than as a single family residence. There was ample evidence, however, that the true motivation for the variance denial was a desire to mollify the anti-chareidi elements who waged a campaign on social media and packed every public meeting in their efforts to keep the yeshiva community out of Ocean Township. - See more at: http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/439230/agudath-israel-to-nj-federal-court-ocean-township-zoning-board-violates-yeshivas-rights.html#sthash.Zxmd29m7.dpufddd
Elements within the community, however, mounted virulent resistance to the application, organizing an effort around the theme, clearly meant to impart a message beyond this specific application, that the yeshiva should “Stay in Lakewood.” The Zoning Board, apparently sympathetic to that sentiment, dragged out the variance application process for well over a year, ultimately denying the application on nebulous grounds. The grounds for denial were cited as “noise,” “safety,” and the vague claim that use of the three-acre parcel for a yeshiva would be more “intense” than as a single family residence. There was ample evidence, however, that the true motivation for the variance denial was a desire to mollify the anti-chareidi elements who waged a campaign on social media and packed every public meeting in their efforts to keep the yeshiva community out of Ocean Township. - See more at: http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/headlines-breaking-stories/439230/agudath-israel-to-nj-federal-court-ocean-township-zoning-board-violates-yeshivas-rights.html#sthash.Zxmd29m7.dpusdd

04/12/2016: Ocean Township hearings continue in Yeshiva Gedola Na'os Yaakov application

On March 17, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey ordered two additional hearings with several time and procedure stipulations after attorneys representing Yeshiva Gedola Na’os Yaakov filed suit against the Ocean Township Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Ocean Township Council on Jan. 8 after the board rejected the application in December.

Under township ordinances, post-secondary religious schools are prohibited throughout the entire town. . . .  “Unfortunately, this matter has become more than a zoning matter,” [Board attorney Mark Steinberg] said. “The applicant is seeking a substantial damage reward, as well as attorney fees and costs, which will also be substantial if the applicant is successful.” Steinberg said under most appealed zoning board rejections, the board is presumed correct, but with a challenge involving RLUIPA that is no longer the case.

K. Walter, "Yeshiva hearing continues in Ocean Township," Atlanticville News (Apr. 12, 2016)

04/04/2016: News reports on Ocean Township yeshiva lawsuit

The March 17 order by the federal court for the District of New Jersey resulted from litigation brought by Yeshiva Gedolah Na’os Yaakov against Ocean and its zoning board of adjustment, claiming they had violated the First and 14th amendments of the Constitution, as well as the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and Fair Housing Act, by placing an undue burden on the yeshiva. Because the board allowed hearings on the yeshiva’s use variance to go on for 511 days, exceeding the state maximum requirement of 120 days, Judge Freda L. Wolfson ordered hearings be held April 5 and 25, when another vote must be taken on the yeshiva’s application. The meetings will be held at Ocean Township High School in Oakhurst at 7 p.m. and will run no later than midnight.

The court also placed additional restrictions on the hearings, including that the zoning board be prohibited from presenting testimony from professional witnesses, that the attorney representing several opposing residents be limited to no more than three professional witnesses, and that no unrepresented member of the public be allowed to cross-examine witnesses. In addition, the court is requiring that testimony from unrepresented members of the public will be limited to no more than five minutes each and total no more than two hours over the course of the two meetings. Residents living within 200 feet of the property will be given first priority to speak.

Storzer said he “was hopeful the zoning board would do the right thing,” but left open the option of returning to federal court should it again be denied.

D. Rubin, "Yeshiva dorm denial overturned by court," New Jersey Jewish News (Apr. 4, 2016)

"The federal legislation supersedes the municipal land use laws," [Board Attorney] Steinberg told a hundred or more people in attendance. "The applicant had the burden to prove an inherently beneficial use outweighs the detriment. This decision reverses that. . . ."

D. Radel, "Crowd, opposition greet Yeshiva group," Asbury Park Press (Apr. 7, 2016)

03/17/2016: Federal court orders Ocean Township Zoning Board of Adjustment to vote on Yeshiva application by April 25

On March 17, 2016, the federal court for the District of New Jersey issued an order in the litigation brought by Yeshiva Gedola Na’os Yaakov against the Township of Ocean and its Zoning Board of Adjustment. The order requires the Board to hold hearings on April 5 and April 25 (limited to a total of ten hours), and to vote on the matter on the latter date.  The court further limited an attorney representing objectors to five hours to present his case, and unrepresented objectors to five minutes of testimony each, with a total of two hours.  As the Yeshiva's Complaint, filed on January 8, 2016, had stated:

Ocean Township residents opposed to the Yeshiva packed Board hearings in order to delay the application, shut down proceedings because of capacity limitations, and prolonged proceedings with lengthy, repetitive, irrelevant and improper testimony and questioning of Yeshiva’s witnesses. This animus resulted in the Board’s protracted 511-day review of the Yeshiva’s use variance application, far beyond the statutory requirement of 120 days under New Jersey law. The Board also refused to place reasonable restrictions on objector questioning and testimony, and refused to schedule sufficient hearings to render a timely decision. The Yeshiva had repeatedly consented to continuations of the Board’s hearings on the application, but could not continue to consent to proceedings that were going to continue for at least one to two more years while its temporary facilities are soon going to become unavailable. This led to the Board’s ultimate denial “without prejudice,” where it refused to deny the use variance on its merits but stated that it was unwilling to render such a decision without granting the objectors unlimited time to oppose the application, New Jersey law notwithstanding.

The Order is available here.

An attorney representing the Yeshiva, Roman Storzer of Storzer & Greene, said he is optimistic the Board will approve the variance.  "Although the Board proceedings continued far too long without justification, we are looking forward finally to their conclusion," Storzer said in an email on Thursday. "We're hopeful that the Board will do the right thing and approve this use." 

N.J. Advance Media (Mar. 17, 2016).  S&G's media release is available here.

01/21/2016: "Yeshiva applicant fights back with lawsuit"

A lawsuit is the result of the abrupt conclusion last month to the highly scrutinized proposal for a Jewish college and dormitory. Attorneys representing the Yeshiva Gedola Na'os Yaakov’s filed suit against the Ocean Township Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Ocean Township Council on Jan. 8, citing a civil rights violation and discrimination after the board rejected the application for a 96-student Jewish university.

K. Walter, "Yeshiva applicant fights back with lawsuit," Atlanticville (Jan. 21, 2016)

01/13/2016: Media reports on Yeshiva lawsuit against Ocean Township

The lawsuit said the residents' efforts to pack the meetings, causing further delays in the application process, were fueled by "unsubstantiated fears of, and prejudice against, Orthodox Jewish men." It also says anti-Semitic undertones were displayed on several social media websites and in the comment sections of news organizations.

For example, in a comment on a petition created on change.org, someone expressed fear that Ocean Township could turn into Lakewood, an Ocean County township with a large Orthodox Jewish population. "I owned property in Lakewood NJ for 24 years," the commenter wrote. "Orthodox Jewish landlords made life a living hell for me there! I would hate to see this repeated in Ocean!" Another commenter said, "There are plenty of other places for radical religious schools."

"This is bigotry masked as a zoning hearing, pure and simple," said Roman P. Storzer, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney representing the applicant. "The situation that the Yeshiva has faced here is exactly why Congress decided that RLUIPA's protections are necessary." 

A. Napoliello, "Yeshiva sues Shore town after denial of boarding school application," NJ Advance (Jan. 11, 2016).

The December vote concluded over a year of boisterous hearings, including a July meeting where over 1,000 community members packed the Ocean Township High School auditorium, exceeding the capacity and forcing the board to adjourn.

The complaint said residents opposed to the yeshiva packed the Zoning Board hearings in order to delay the application, shut down proceedings becaues of capacity limitations and prolonged proceedings with "lengthy, repetitive, irrelevant and improper testimony and questioning of yeshiva's witnesses."

The result, the complaint states, was an application that dragged on for 511 days, nearly four times the statutory limit of 120 days.

D. Radel, "Yeshiva group files suit against Ocean Township," Asbury Park Press (Jan. 11, 2016).

"Yeshiva Files RLUIPA Action Against New Jersey Township," Religious Clause (Jan. 12, 2016).

The applicant has decided to take the decision to court. On January 8, 2016, through the firm of Storzer & Greene, Yeshiva Gedola Na'os Yaakov filed suit against Ocean Township, N.J. and its Zoning Board of Adjustment, challenging the Township's zoning regulations and Board's denial of the Yeshiva's variance application to use an existing school building, the Talmudic academy was filed in federal district court alleging violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") and the Fair Housing Act.  The firm said Yeshiva is also represented by New Jersey attorney Donna M. Jennings of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A.

The court complaint says the Yeshiva needs a religious school, and the Township's zoning laws completely prohibit religious education throughout the Township for students over 18 years of age, while permitting other adult education institutions.

It also describes what it cites as a long litany of examples of the substantial hostility faced by the Yeshiva during the variance application proceedings. The court filing says hearings were confronted with descriptions of the applicant as "religious zealots," "[s]cumbags," "dirty" and "Long coat gangsters," and accused of being "a different breed; the women are sub species and their ways are cultish, . . . ."

The Complaint as described in a Storzer & Greene statement that "many Ocean Township residents hold animus toward the Orthodox Jewish community in nearby Lakewood, New Jersey," that the "Ocean Township community . . . engaged in a concerted effort to 'pack' the hearings [and] delay proceedings," and this "hostility by many residents of Ocean Township includes unsubstantiated fears of, and prejudice against, Orthodox Jewish men."

J. Kearns, "Yeshiva Files Federal Complaint in Ocean Township School Application Denial," Word on the Shore (Jan. 13, 2016)

The Yeshiva Gedola application is the third attempt to establish a yeshiva in Ocean Township. The previous two applications, filed in 2010, were similarly denied in the face of “community resistance.”

M. Rephun, "Ocean Township Zoning Board of Adjustment Sued for Denying Yeshiva Application, "Jewish Political News & Updates (Jan. 12, 2016).

 

01/08/2016: Yeshiva files suit against Ocean Township for boarding school ban and variance denial

On January 8, 2016, the Yeshiva Gedola Na'os Yaakov filed suit in federal district court against Ocean Township, N.J. and the Township's Zoning Board of Adjustment, challenging the Township's laws regulating schools and the denial of the Yeshiva's use variance application under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and the Fair Housing Act.  The Yeshiva is represented by S&G and the firm of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, P.A.  A media release is available here and the Complaint is located here.

08/06/2015: Article examines hostility to Ocean Township, N.J. Yeshiva application

Signs line the streets in the Wanamassa section of Ocean stating, “No Dorm on Logan Road.”  According to some, the signs might as well say, “No Jews on Logan Road.”  “Those paying attention know that when people hear that it is an Orthodox Jewish school, their reflex is to say, ‘No way,’” an activist told Matzav.com. “The residents will not admit it publicly, but it is pretty transparent,”

Ocean is no stranger to schools and students. In fact, it houses students from nearby Monmouth University.  But locals are opposed to a use variance sought by Yeshiva Na’os Yaakov for a 96-student boarding school on 1515 Logan Road.

Residents are showing up to the hearings in droves, NJ.com reports. The last three board meetings had to be moved to Ocean Township High School to accommodate the large crowds.

The residents don’t talk about the Jewish nature of the yeshiva. Instead they say that “the new school will drive down their property value and alter the makeup of the area,” despite offering no proof of either claim.  Roman Storzer of Storzer & Greene, a firm that represents religious organizations in zoning and land use cases, said the applicant has satisfied all of the relevant land use interests, such as traffic, noise and environmental concerns.  “They would also be renovating the property, making it much more harmonious,” Storzer said, according to NJ.com.

Gavriel Sitrit, "Residents of Ocean, NJ, Doing All They Can to Keep Out Rav Shlomo Feivel Schustal’s Yeshiva," Matzav.com Newscenter (Aug. 6, 2015)

08/05/2015: S&G client Yeshiva Gedola Na'os Yaakov faces opposition to its educational facilitiy in Ocean Township, N.J.

A Jewish educational institution seeking to use an existing school facility as a boarding school for Jewish scholars aged 18 to 22 faces fierce opposition from the local community.  New Jersey Advance Media reports that "[r]esidents say that the new school will drive down their property value and alter the makeup of the area."  "[R]esidents are showing up to the hearings in droves," opposing the application.

Roman Storzer of Storzer & Greene, a firm that represents religious organizations in zoning and land use cases said the applicant has satisfied all of the relevant land use interests, such as traffic, noise and environmental concerns. 

They would also be renovating the property, making it much more harmonious [with the neighborhood]," Storzer said.

He said the fact that opposition remains strong among the residents suggests their concerns go above the building itself.

Storzer also pointed to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, commonly known as RLUIPA, which protects religious organizations from being discriminated against in zoning and landmark cases.

A. Napoliello, "Neighborhood fights to keep out Jewish boarding school," NJ Advance Media for NJ.com (Aug. 5, 2015)