Thursday, October 10, 2019

Chestnut Ridge: Judge will hear arguments on house of worship law 

A state judge will hear arguments from the village and a grassroots group on whether the Board of Trustees followed state environmental regulations when adopting a hotly debated law allowing houses of worship in single-family homes across the Ramapo community.

State Supreme Court Justice Paul Marx kept three environmental issues for written legal arguments and dismissed three others in the legal action the Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods, known as CUPON, brought against the village.
Marx's decision Oct. 4 dismissed CUPON's three other legal arguments to void the house of worship amendment adopted by the Board of Trustees on Feb. 21.

Chestnut Ridge officials asked the court to dismiss CUPON's Article 78 legal action to void the law.

The law created a three-tiered system through a special permit process for worship in single-family, detached houses with a maximum of 10,000 square feet and other criteria.

The debate within the Ramapo community predominantly pit Hasidic and Orthodox Jews favoring more avenues for worship against CUPON and other residents, including secular Jews, who were opposed.
The village's previous criteria from 1986 allowed a free-standing synagogue on five acres.

Officials now argued the village's five-acre minimum for a house of worship was "onerous" for religious freedom and left the village open to a federal civil rights lawsuit.

CUPON and its lawyer contended the village never violated the Constitution and didn't need to amend the zoning.

Marx gave CUPON's lawyer until Nov. 18 to file its legal arguments and the village's attorney until Nov. 25 to respond. Marx restricted each side to providing a 25-page memorandum of law.

The judge also allowed the Orthodox Jewish Coalition of Chestnut Ridge to intervene with its views. The OJC was a  driving force in lobbying the village board to pass the house of worship law.

The law spurred two other legal actions.

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