Monday, November 28, 2011

Chabad Claims Discrimination, Heads To Court 

A law­suit by a Jewish group on a land-use issue that divided the town appears to be heading toward a conclusion.

to Kenneth Slater of Halloran & Sage LLP in Hartford, the attorney
representing by Chabad Lubavitch of Litch­field County Inc., which is
led by Rabbi Yosef Aisenbach, parties on both sides of the case have filed motions for summary judgment.

is suing the Litchfield Historic Dis­trict Commission, a govern­mental
entity of the Litchfield Borough, for its denial of plans to expand and
convert the former site of the Wilderness Shop on West Street — in the
town center — into a new Chabad headquarters.

Slater explained
that the parties are entitled under the rules of procedure to ask the
court to render a ruling in their favor without need for a full trial.
"We have gone through the discovery phase where depositions are held and
documents are exchanged," the attorney noted.

The lawsuit is
filed in U.S. District Court, and the court is scheduled to hear oral
arguments from both parties next Friday (Dec. 2) in federal court in
Bridgeport, Mr. Slater said.

The lawsuit, filed in 2009,
challenges the right of the Historic District Commission to deny
Chabad's plans and summons the protections afford by the federal
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).

building, now owned by Chabad, is just southwest of the West Street
shops and in the historic district, where the commission has wide power
to regulate exterior changes. The Litchfield Borough covers a square
mile and has its own layer of government that functions independently
from municipal government.

Chabad had proposed a project that
would have taken a building of a slightly more than 2,500 square feet
and increased it to more than 20,000 square feet. In denying a
certificate of appropriateness for the plans, the Historic District
Commission cited the scope and scale of the project as being too
invasive and out of character with other buildings in the heart of the
tourist-destination town.

Chabad saw the December 2007 denial as
an example of religious discrimination and in its lawsuit it cited the
horrors of the Holocaust and gave examples of other buildings in the
historic district that have been greatly expanded, including the
original structure that is part of Oliver Wolcott Library on South

The defendants in the suit filed motions seeking to
dismiss two counts in the lawsuit—those alleging a conspiracy to violate
the plaintiffs' rights and the failure to prevent such a conspiracy.

Janet C. Hall denied those motions in a July 2010 ruling, writing at
one point, "Several statements were made in what appear to be meetings
of the HDC that may contain evidence of discrimination directed against
Jewish people in general and the Chabad in particular."

plaintiffs claim that the actions of the defendants in blocking Chabad's
plans not only represent violations of the Jewish group's civil rights
but also violate RLUIPA directly and state statutes.

In April of
last year, the plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint, and the
defendants asked the court to strike certain portions of the complaint,
according to court documents.

In the amended complaint, the
plaintiffs added two sections which the defendants object to. The
plaintiffs include a brief description of the history of the
discrimination against Jewish people and the need for places of worship
for Orthodox Jews. Some of the description is limited to the
discrimination experienced by Jews in the United States and in recent
history, but the plaintiffs also include a brief description of the
Holocaust and the Nazis' attempt to exterminate the Jewish population.

arguing that is simply made an appropriate land-use decision, the
Historic District Commission has said the plan would overwhelm the
town's historic district. And it stressed that it proposed a compromise
to allow a doubling of the original square footage of the building to
5,000 square feet — a compromise that was rejected.


Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Chaptzem! Blog