“The Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov is seeking $5.2 million in reimbursement for its legal fees, based on a federal judge’s ruling that the village’s zoning discriminated against it.
The village, which has a 2018 budget of $2.8 million, already has spent more than $5 million since 2007 trying to prevent the congregation from building a dormitory-style school in a wooded area along the Route 202-306 corridor.
Pomona’s legal battle — and expenses — continue as its lawyers have filed an appeal of U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas’s December decision nullifying parts of the village’s zoning code that limited the congregation’s rights to build a dormitory school.
Karas has not ruled on Tartikov’s request for legal-fee reimbursement, said Joseph Churgin, one of Tartikov’s half-dozen attorneys and a partner with fellow religious rights attorney Paul Savad of Nanuet.
Pomona’s attorneys are challenging Tartikov’s request for legal-fees reimbursement as excessive and duplicative.
“We’re in a holding pattern,” Churgin said Friday. “Both sides have submitted their briefs and it’s with the judge. As far as reimbursement of the legal fees they paid, under RLUIPA the injured party is entitled to seek reimbursement.”
The village also is appealing Karas’ decision as both sides continue to file legal arguments with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Playing an influential role on zoning issues in Rockland County and nationwide, RLUIPA is the acronym for the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, adopted unanimously by Congress in 2000 and signed by President Bill Clinton.
The act aims to protect religious institutions from discrimination in zoning and has become a thorn in the side of municipalities trying to maintain residential neighborhoods.
Airmont has been successfully sued several times for discriminatory zoning by Orthodox Jews and the U.S. Justice Department. Airmont faces a threat of a new legal action by religious protection advocates as it revises its zoning code.
And with RLUIPA lurking, the Ramapo village of Chestnut Ridge is now discussing revised zoning that includes permitting more opportunities for residential houses of worship beyond the current 5-acre requirement and other restrictions favored by many village residents. Some 750 to 1,000 people attended two public hearings as the village works on the revisions with plans for a third session.”
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