Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

New Life Church Considers Lawsuit

21. November 2004 • Brandon
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The Ann Arbor News reports that New Life Church, whose proposed expansion was blocked by the Planning Commission last week, is considering litigation against the City of Ann Arbor:

New Life Church, the student ministry housed in a former sorority on Washtenaw Avenue, is considering its options, including a lawsuit, after the Ann Arbor Planning Commission denied a large addition to the property.

“Our board has authorized us to seek legal remedy,” said New Life Lead Pastor Steven Hayes.

The church may consider arguing its case partially on grounds of religious discrimination, it seems:

The objections to the New Life project “has had a clear undercurrent of religious animus,” Hayes says in a Nov. 4 letter to the Planning Commission. The church has argued that because it serves a largely student population, it needs to be near the university, and that there are other institutional buildings of similar size on New Life’s block.

  1. I think the rejection of the New Life’s site plan was really pretty specious. The Planning Commission concerned about pedestrian traffic on Washtenaw between South U and Hill? Please! One of the only three commissioners with a head screwed on straight noted, “There are hundreds of students going back and forth every hour to class right there—this is not going to be a big change.”
       —Murph    Nov. 22 '04 - 12:37PM    #
  2. Though I do NOT think that there was a “religious animus” involved. I think it was just NIMBYism—a student animus if anything.
       —Murph    Nov. 22 '04 - 12:41PM    #
  3. I agree, Murph. I’m not too optimistic about the lawsuit’s prospects, though (nor would I have been if the other side had sued had it gone the other way) as the city only needs to pass a rational relationship test, no?
       —Brandon    Nov. 22 '04 - 02:14PM    #
  4. Right—the New Lifers cited the Canterbury House case, but I think Canterbury lost and didn’t bother to appeal. Given the standard that a religious org. has to meet all the same requirements as any other org, I don’t think the NL is going to win their lawsuit.
       —Murph    Nov. 22 '04 - 04:53PM    #
  5. yeah, i’m thinkin there’s not a whole lot of chance here, from the beginning it wasn’t looking too good to get the exception for plenty of reasons, none of them because it was discrimination or whatever
       —Mike    Nov. 22 '04 - 05:36PM    #
  6. In case any of you missed the big news – we’ve won the lawsuit and broke ground on the new building already! Praise God! :)
       —Andrea    Dec. 1 '05 - 03:07AM    #