What is RLUIPA and how does it bear on this application?
RLUIPA stands for the federal law enacted in 2000 entitled The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. We do not profess expertise about RLUIPA; however like most in the community we were aware that religious organizations are entitled to rights under the law consistent with our country’s bedrock freedom of religion doctrine. As we understand RLUIPA, it provides religious organizations protection against substantial burden imposed through zoning restrictions; but for the protection to apply, the burden must be “substantial Key quotes from a RLUIPA website:
• Religious institutions must be treated as well as comparable secular institutions.
• RLUIPA bars discrimination among religions.
• Zoning ordinances may not totally exclude religious assemblies.
• RLUIPA forbids laws that unreasonably limit houses of worship.
Importantly RLUIPA does not provide the BCC, we believe, with affirmative rights beyond those applicable to others to come before the Planning Board. Instead, our understanding of the purpose of the law is to protect religious organizations from discriminatory treatment.
Therefore, consideration of size, location and adverse impact risks appear to be entirely permissible issues for community views to be heard and for Planning Board consideration in balancing the rights of the applicant with the rights of the community. In terms of the “substantial” standard under RLUIPA, we believe that these issues represent compelling interests to the community and town government.
Water issues are paramount to the local area as well as the regional.
The applicant represents in the DEIS that mitigation of the risks of water contamination can be handled. Concern that the proposed mitigation may not be totally effective or the proposed mitigation controls may not be permanently maintained raises serious risk questions on water quality. NYC is under pressure to build a hugely expensive water treatment plant if the reservoirs can’t be better protected. Our local reservoirs serve Westchester and NYC. The funding of a “hugely expensive” water treatment plant won’t fall solely on NYC. For more information: http://www.newyorkwater.org/?Page=ISSUES&homePage=issues_home
What is the historic importance of Buxton Road?
The Buxton Road path is thought to be a portion of the major Indian trail between Long Island Sound and the Hudson River. A property on the road adjacent to the BCC proposed construction purportedly contains an access point to the Underground Railroad used during the Civil War. These links to our history, like the Bedford Oak, are a part of the character of our Town that makes this such a special place to live. Our history gives a sense of place; it deserves our respect.
The Town of Bedford is due to post the DEIS on its web site as of the first week of February.