Saturday, March 22, 2014

Village of Woodbury laws overlooked Hasidic residents, judge rules - Update 

  Woodbury Ruling

A state judge has voided the Comprehensive Plan and two zoning laws the Village of Woodbury adopted in 2011, siding with arguments by the Village of Kiryas Joel and affiliated plaintiffs that Woodbury had unfairly overlooked the high-density housing needs of Hasidic residents.

In a ruling dated Wednesday, state Supreme Court Justice Francis Nicolai declared that the omission constituted "exclusionary zoning," even though the Comprehensive Plan and zoning laws had no "language or provision expressly prohibiting members of the Hasidic Jewish Community from residing in the Village."

"It is clear that if such was not enacted for an improper purpose, the Village CP (Comprehensive Plan) and the Zoning Amendments were enacted without giving proper regard to local and regional housing needs of the Hasidic Jewish community and will have an exclusionary effect," Nicolai wrote.

Woodbury Mayor Michael Queenan said Thursday afternoon that his village will appeal the decision. Dennis Lynch, an attorney for Woodbury, cast it as a mixed ruling, noting in a written statement that the judge upheld two other Woodbury laws the plaintiffs had challenged, one regulating religious structures and the other protecting ridge lines.

"The Court found that the Village's Zoning Code was exclusionary in that it did not meet 'regional needs,'" Lynch said. "The Village believes that its Code does meet regional needs and looks forward for the Appellate Court to find in the Village's favor on this remaining issue."

Kiryas Joel and its officials brought the case in 2011, joined by three Woodbury residents and five entities controlled by Vaad Hakiryah, the development arm of Kiryas Joel's main religious congregation. Vaad Hakiryah, which owned 175 acres of undeveloped land in Woodbury, claimed it has been prevented from building multifamily housing, synagogues and other typical features of a Hasidic community.

Kiryas Joel's lawyers had argued that zoning for large residential lots prevents Hasidic Jews from "living and freely practicing their religion in Woodbury" and thereby "places an unreasonable burden on Kiryas Joel's housing stock, infrastructure, community services and community character."


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