Appellate Court “Scrubs” Supreme Court Ruling, Holding that Jewish Bath is Permitted As of Right Under Local Zoning Law

In Winterton Properties, LLC v. Town of Mamakating Zoning Board of Appeals, 132 A.D.3d 1141 (3rd Dept. 2015), the Appellate Division, Third Department reversed the Supreme Court decision and found that a Mikvah, or bath-like structure used in Jewish ceremonies was permitted under the local zoning ordinance in the Town of Mamakating.

The Town’s Building Inspector had issued an interpretation that the Mikvah was considered a “neighborhood place of worship” which was a permitted use in the zoning district in which the property was located.  Two individuals appealed that determination and the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (“ZBA”) determined that the Mikvah did not qualify as a “neighborhood place of worship” at least in part because it lacked a community prayer element.  The Town’s Zoning Code did not define “neighborhood place of worship” but stated that undefined terms would have their “ordinary dictionary meanings.”

The Appellate Division looked at Black’s Law Dictionary and held that “the dictionary meaning of neighborhood place of worship—and consequently the definition of that term under the Town’s zoning law—is a building or location set aside in a certain area for any form of religious devotion, ritual or service showing reverence, especially for a divine being or supernatural power.”  The Court agreed with the Petitioner that the ZBA imposed an additional community worship requirement which was not in the Town’s Zoning Code.  The Court also noted that no deference is given to purely legal interpretations and any ambiguity in the Zoning Code must be interpreted in favor of the applicant.

Based on the foregoing, the Appellate Division reversed the Supreme Court and ZBA, finding that the proposed Mikvah was a “neighborhood place of worship” which was a permitted use in the zoning district in which the property was located.

For more information about land use and zoning, please click here.

For general information about the firm, including our contact information, please click here.

The Law Offices of Keith R. Betensky, Esq.
The Empire Building
26 Village Green, Suite 4
P.O. Box 22
Bedford, New York 10506-0022
(914) 338-8050

Contact Us

Give us a call or fill in the form below and we will contact you. We endeavor to answer all inquiries within 24 hours on business days.