Municipal Corporations – Zoning – Exclusion of Churches from Residential Area

In two recent New York cases churches sought permits to use residential property for church purposes, including worship, social gatherings, construction of an adjacent parking lot, and, in one case, establishment of a school and playground. In each case the zoning board denied the permit on grounds that a church would change the residential character of the neighborhood, decrease the enjoyment of neighboring property, depreciate property values, and that the contemplated use of the property for other than worship was prohibited by the ordinance. The lower court upheld the decisions of both zoning boards. On appeal to the New York Court of Appeals, held, reversed. The zoning board decisions are arbitrary and unreasonable in that they bear no substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals or general welfare of the community. Community Synagogue v. Bates, I N.Y. (2d) 445, 136 N.E. (2d) 488 (1956); Diocese of Rochester v. Planning Board of Brighton, I N.Y. (2d) 508, 136 N.E. (2d) 827 (1956).