Blocked Church Expansion into Greenbelt Challenged

Church officials in Ventura County, California, are challenging a decision barring them from expanding into protected open space, arguing that federal law allows them exemptions from zoning controls.

"The Simi Valley church, which has grown to 4,000 members, is challenging the county Planning Commission's denial on Oct. 9 of its request to consider its application for a seven-building campus in a greenbelt near Simi Valley. Church officials believe the proposed campus should be excused from local land use laws under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act."

"The supervisors agreed the effect of the federal law should be squared away before voting on the appeal."

"The religious land use act, enacted in 2000 to protect churches from discrimination, will be looked at as a legal matter, not as an application to build the campus in the Tierra Rejada greenbelt, clarified Supervisor Steve Bennett."

"As local land-use law is written, buildings are not allowed in designated open space areas throughout the county and churches are specifically not granted an exception."

"Rubens said the church should be allowed to move forward with its application, noting 'federal law supersedes a zoning ordinance that discriminates against churches.'"

Full Story: Cornerstone church says U.S. act exempts it from local law

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