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Orthodox day school sues over zoning decision

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NEW YORK (JTA) — An Orthodox Jewish day school is suing an Illinois town for blocking the construction of a school building.

Attorneys for Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov-Tiferes Tzvi allege that city officials were wrong to focus on property taxes as the basis for denying a zoning request and failed to distinguish a religious institution from a private school, according to the Evanston Review.

The school’s 29-page complaint argues that Cook County’s zoning decision "was arbitrary and unreasonable under the state zoning laws, and violated the group’s federal and state constitutional rights to freedom of speech and religion," the Illinois daily reported.

The $2 million lawsuit is for damages related to architectural design costs, insurance losses and other expenses inherent in holding the property without beginning construction. The school’s lawyers also will try to prove an "inconsistency" in Evanston’s zoning ordinance that allows for "religious institutions and religious membership organizations" but excludes "religious educational institutions."

"We tried to work out our issues with the city, including offering payment in lieu of property taxes, and believe we met all of the zoning criteria," said the school’s president, Moshe Davis. "Going to court was a last resort."

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