Georgia ministry files lawsuit over zoning dispute

A Georgia addiction ministry has filed a lawsuit against the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners individually and as a group. The 30-page compliant, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, alleges that the board violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the Fair Housing Act and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when it denied the ministry zoning approval to operate a transitional housing facility in Woodstock.

The ministry purchased the 7-acre property from another ministry in 2017. The facility had been used to provide temporary housing to missionaries for about 35 years with no regulatory issues. The ministry claims in its lawsuit that it was assured by the Board of Commissioners and the Zoning Administrator that using the property to provide transitional shelter to between 20 and 30 men recovering from substance abuse issues would not be a problem.

The ministry had been operating the property for about four months when it was informed by the board that it was engaged in unauthorized activities and a prior approval had been granted in error. The lawsuit claims that the board altered zoning rules to force the ministry out because it objected to the type of people being treated at the property. The ministry is seeking an injunction that would allow it to continue operating the facility and damages of $300,000.

Disputes such as this one are often complex and costly to litigate. Attorneys with experience in zoning matters may seek to avoid legal battles by assessing and addressing possible regulatory issues before contracts are signed. When officials renege on their legal commitments under pressure from members of the community, attorneys may seek to hold them accountable by filing lawsuits such as this one.

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