WOODCLIFF LAKE, N.J. — A Woodcliff Lake synagogue filed a nine-count lawsuit in Federal Court earlier this month alleging multiple civil rights violations and abuses in the local planning process.
Officials at Valley Chabad cited numerous instances of harassment and obstruction over a 16-year period, according to a press release from The Marcus Group, Inc.
The complaint requests that the federal court reverse the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s denial of the application to construct a new home on its existing site; direct the defendants to end their discriminatory practices and monetarily compensate the victims for violations of state and federal law; and cites multiple violations of state and federal civil rights and zoning statutes.
The complaint says:
"After being thwarted in its efforts to purchase a suitable site, consistent with local planning and use regulations, through the interference of local officials, Valley Chabad painstakingly sought to gain approval to construct its new home on its existing site which has been used as a temporary home."
Woodcliff Lake's existing zoning ordinance renders construction of new religious facilities in the borough "virtually impossible" without a use variance, according to the complaint.
Valley Chabad worked cooperatively with borough officials, making significant concessions from its original plan to satisfy the alleged, legitimate community needs while maintaining the integrity of the house of worship.
Working exhaustively with local officials, the Chabad’s application took 628 days and 18 public hearings — 508 days longer than the permitted period for hearing variances, the press release says.
Nonetheless, the application was rejected.