As reported by Action News 38, here, http://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/news/local/church-attorney-jacksonville-beach-changed-religio/nhN29/
Church attorney: Jacksonville Beach changed Religious Land Use Act on purpose before trial
By Amanda Warford
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — The City of Jacksonville Beach will head to federal court Wednesday to fight a lawsuit filed by the Church of Our Savior. The congregation of the church is growing, and for nearly two years, elders have attempted to secure an empty lot east of the Intracoastal Bridge on Beach Boulevard for a new facility. The lot is currently zoned residential, and twice, the Jacksonville Beach Planning Division has denied the Church’s request for a zoning change, siding with neighbors who are concerned with lighting, noise and parking. The church’s attorney, Dan Dalton, gave Action News a preview of the building plans that he will present in court Tuesday. Dalton said the church has a right to build there by law.
“It’s really the ideal location and there’s just no other land available,” said Dalton.
Now, Dalton said, there’s a new twist in the case. On Monday night, the Jacksonville Beach City Council changed their code regarding the conditional use of residential properties. According to a memo from the City’s Senior Planner to the City Manager in August, Ordinance 2014-8060 amended the Land Development Code by “changing public and private parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities from permitted use to conditional use in the city’s five residential zoning districts…In all five residential districts, ‘religious organizations’ are listed as conditional uses…Among other matters, generally, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and construing federal case law requires that assembly uses, such as religious organizations, and parks and recreational facilities, be treated on equal terms. While legal counsel for the City and the Planning Division believe the present LDC regulations as to the City’s residential zoning districts comply with RLUIPA and other applicable federal law, it has been recommended that such regulations be amended to equalize the treatment of religious organizations, and public and private parks, playgrounds, and recreational facilities groups.”
Dalton believes the change was made on purpose, 36 hours before trial.
“They knew they had a problem with the Religious Land Use Act, which is the Act we’re relying on at trial. They were trying, basically to protect themselves in a lawsuit — not to fix a problem, not to make the community better, but to fix themselves for one claim and one lawsuit.” Jacksonville Beach City Attorney Susan Erdelyi declined to comment on the amendment or the pending trial, which begins at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Dalton & Tomich, PLC is the national leader in successfully helping churches, other religious institutions and their insurers defend their rights in land use and zoning matters under RLUIPA, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. We have helped clients win cases against municipalities and other local government bodies from coast to coast, with experience serving both as general counsel and special litigation counsel.
In 2015, Hope Rising Community Church experienced extreme opposition, the kind that would force it to close its doors and leave behind the families and youth it was so passionate about reaching. As the lead pastor I felt helpless, inferior and as if I had no […]Read More
Dalton & Tomich’s assistance in our RLUIPA matter has paved the way for our church to continue serving the community and for new churches in the area to thrive in the future. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your stand for religious […]Read More
The Urban Church will be forever grateful to Dalton & Tomich plc for navigating it through a difficult land use issue. Let them give you honest and caring advice because that’s exactly what they’ll do.Read More
Dalton & Tomich, PLC defended a complicated case at a church we insure. Not only is the firm professional, they understand how church business runs and work well within church leadership.Read More
Dalton & Tomich, PLC helped us immensely in the areas of litigation and negotiation! Their professionalism and understanding of church policy helped our church be victorious in a modern day religious land use battle. RLUIPA Religious Land Use Case: Lighthouse Community Church of GodRead More
Dalton & Tomich, PLC serves as General Counsel for the 144 churches within the Church of God in Michigan. The firm provides the legal expertise we need in dealing with the issues that arise during the course of fulfilling our ministry.Read More
I met Dan Dalton during a dark time for our church. He was recommended as the leading RLUIPA attorney in the nation. He demonstrated wisdom, expertise, a gentle nature, a calming inter-relational skill, genuineness, and a humble demeanor, while at the same time, being sharp, […]Read More
Mr. Dalton’s expertise and experience helped us through a very difficult legal journey, ultimately achieving a favorable outcome. His personal interest in helping our church went “above and beyond” just the call of duty. His understanding of both legal and spiritual matters seems to uniquely […]Read More