US/World News

NJ town settles lawsuit to allow local Chabad to expand building

(JTA) – A northern New Jersey suburb has reached an agreement to settle a federal lawsuit that accused it of improperly restricting an Orthodox Jewish congregation from expanding its house of worship. If a federal judge approves the agreement, the town of Woodcliff Lake will allow the Valley Chabad to expand its building on its property and  pay $1.5 million in damages to resolve a second lawsuit, The Associated Press reported. The congregation attempted to relocate at least three times since 2005, but could not because of action by the Borough Council or its members, including the use of eminent domain.

In 2014, the congregation applied to the borough zoning board to raze its building and replace it with one nearly six times larger. The board held 18 hearings, eventually suggesting six alternative properties, before denying the application, causing Valley Chabad to lose money, according to the lawsuit.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office sued the town in 2018, alleging violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act when it blocked Valley Chabad from buying additional property or expanding its existing building. Woodcliff Lake, a Bergen County town located some 25 miles from New York City, countered that Chabad’s building plans failed to meet zoning requirements for houses of worship, such as minimum lot size and parking capacity.

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