Garden State Islamic Center v. City of Vineland, NJ (D. N.J.)
On September 5, 2017, the United States and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey filed a Statement of Interest in Garden State Islamic Center v. City of Vineland, NJ (D. N.J.), a RLUIPA action brought by GSIC challenging the city’s refusal to grant a certificate of occupancy for a place of worship on the basis that GSIC did not satisfy sewage regulation requirements. The United States does not take a position on whether the city has violated RLUIPA, but only weighs in against the city’s assertion that GSIC’s complaint should be dismissed on the ground that the sewage regulation does not constitute a “land use regulation” and therefore is not covered by RLUIPA. The United States contends that the application of the sewage regulation is covered by RLUIPA. On December 12, 2018, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey issued an opinion denying a city’s motion to dismiss GSIC’s RLUIPA action, finding that the city’s denial of a certificate of occupancy for GSIC’s place of worship based on the application of State sewage regulations fell within RLUIPA, and that the sewage regulations were a “land use regulation” under RLUIPA. The court found that the city incorporated the sewage regulations by reference in its zoning code, and that the record showed that the sewage approval process was used as a means to thwart the GSIC’s project.