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Good news for the Jewish population of the Town of Mamakating, as the Appellate Division, Third Department greenlights construction of a new mikvah. Petitioners had purchased a property used as a day spa with the intent of converting it into a mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath and precursor to a synagogue in observant communities. The Town Building Inspector had approved the use as consistent with the Town Zoning Code definition of a “neighborhood place of worship,” but that determination was overturned by the Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals after it was challenged by respondents Michael Hassler and Beverly Martin. Petitioner then commenced an unsuccessful Article 78 proceeding to annul the ZBA’s decision, before appealing to the Appellate Division.

In deciding that a mikvah was consistent with the requirements of a “neighborhood place of worship”, the court looked to the ordinary meaning of “neighborhood place of worship.” What they found was a relatively broad definition that included any “building or location set aside for any form of religious devotion, ritual, or service showing reverence, especially for a divine being or supernatural power.” What it did not include was the ZBA’s requirement of “communal worship.” The court accordingly overturned the ZBA’s determination and greenlighted the petitioners proposed development plan.

The case was Winterton Properties, LLC v Town of Mamakating Zoning Board of Appeals, 2015 WL 6181319 (NYAD 3 Dept. 10/22/2015)