I'm pleased to report a victory in a zoning issue in one Township in Michigan that barred churches from locating in specific sections of the Township.
We represent The Carpenter's House Church, which is located in Holly Township, about 40 miles north of Ann Arbor. Recently the Township amended its zoning ordinance to exclude places of worship from its C-2 Districts. The Church is located in a C-2 District.
The new ordinance allowed as special uses in C-2 Districts "assemblies," such as movie theaters, and specifically excluded places of worship from the definition of assembly. So, a place of worship could not request a special use permit and was banned from the C-2 Districts.
We sent a demand letter to the Township, threatening a federal lawsuit, since the ordinance violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
In our demand letter, we argued that the Holly Township zoning code is unconstitutional and urged the Township to "review and amend its zoning code to allow churches, including Carpenter's House Church, to locate in C-2 Districts and other areas where similar non-religious uses are permitted." You can read the demand letter here.
We gave the Township until December 29th to provide us with written assurance that the Township would take this corrective action or we would file a lawsuit in federal district court on behalf of our client.
One week before our deadline, we received a letter from the Township stating that it will amend its ordinance to allow places of worship to be included as a special land use in C-2 Districts.
Now, our client and other churches in Holly Township, Michigan will not face discriminatory and unconstitutional treatment under the zoning code.