“The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to consider an appeal involving a Hasidic Jewish congregation’s 13-year-old plan to build a rabbinical college with apartments for students and their families amid 130 acres straddling routes 202 and 306.
The development proposal will remain stalled until Congregation Rabbinical College of Tartikov Inc. files site plans and seeks a zone change. The congregation also has filed another legal action in federal court on the issues.
Tartikov took legal action under the controversial Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, known as RLUIPA, and other laws protecting religion.
The congregation decided more than a decade ago to challenge Pomona’s zoning as discriminatory, rather than seek approvals. Tartikov has argued RLUIPA allowed a challenge to the zoning laws without filing plans and the law discriminated against them based on their religious beliefs.
And Pomona came out on top in the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling in February and then in the U.S. Supreme Court denial to hear the appeal on Friday.
The nation’s highest court refused to hear Tartikov’s appeal of a lower court decision in February that upheld the village zoning and found Tartikov lacked standing without filing development plans with Pomona’s land-use boards.
Tartikov filed legalpapers seeking relief before the Supreme Court after the Second Circuit Court refused to reconsider a decision to overturn a federal judge’s finding that two village zoning laws were enacted in 2001 and 2004 with the intent to discriminate against the Orthodox/Hasidic community.
The appeals court upheld two zoning laws as discriminatory by Judge Kenneth Karas, supporting his conclusion of animus against Hasidic Jews.
Karas found that four zoning amendments adopted after the village learned of Tartikov’s plans were tainted by religious animus. He prohibited the village from enforcing the laws and issued a broad injunction sweeping away or modifying the zoning.
The village appealed, arguing Karas’s “finding of religious animus were clearly erroneous.”
Millions in legal fees
Mayor Ian Banks welcomed the Supreme Court decision, knowing the cases are not over and Tartikov can still file plans.
Defending the village has cost village taxpayers more than $5 million and Tartikov is asking the court for $5.2 million to cover its legal fees. The disbursement of legal fees is pending before Judge Karas.
“The decision was what we were hoping,” Banks said of the Supreme Court’s denial. “We didn’t think a rehearing was appropriate and that their arguments were valid. The court agreed with us.”
And Tartikov controls what happens next, said attorney Brian Nugent, a partner in Feerick Nugent MacCartney in South Nyack. Nugent and the firm represent the village’s four trustees.
“To date, no land use application has ever been filed with the Village of Pomona by Tartikov,” Nugent said. “Only Tartikov can initiate that process.”
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