Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Towns May Bar Churches and Temples From Residential Areas

The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has allowed Abingdon Township in Pennsylvania to bar a Jewish congregation from purchasing a small monastery formerly used by a group of Catholic nuns. According to the AP report "The facts of this case illustrate why religious uses may be, in some cases, incompatible with a place of 'quiet seclusion.' " "(W)e do not believe land use planners can assume anymore that religious uses are inherently compatible with familiy and residential uses."

This has several interesting aspects. Random thoughts:

Note that the use has been religious since the 1950's. They are not allowed a grandfathered non-conforming use.

If this concept becomes widely applied, it could make the concept of the nieghborhood parish impossible in newer areas. Possibly even in older areas faced with re-development projects. According to the article the area in question is 20% Jewish but they have no synagogue anywhere in the township. It could be done to Catholic churches just as easily. The Byzantine eparchy of Van Nuys had a fight on its hands to get permission to build its church in Anaheim with just these sort of objections being made.

The synagogue is not completely out in the cold. The 3d Circuit ordered a re-hearing based on the points made in their hearing. So the Kol Ami congregation still has a chance.