Faced with Discriminatory Zoning Code, Church Sues Delanco Township


October 19, 2015

Faced with Discriminatory Zoning Code, Church Sues Delanco Township

(Delanco Township, New Jersey—October 19, 2015) On Monday, My Father’s House, a small predominantly African-American church, filed a federal lawsuit against Delanco Township seeking relief from a discriminatory zoning ordinance. The lawsuit comes after the Delanco Township Zoning Board denied the church’s attempt to rent vacant property in the township.

Since its founding in 2012, the church of 25 members has always sought a permanent home to hold its services and thought it had finally found one at 989 Cooperstown Road. Described by the property’s owners as the “ideal” place for a church, the property had been rented to another church for ten years before becoming vacant two years ago.

Although the property is located in an industrial zone, it consists only of office space and cannot be put to industrial use. Yet the Zoning Board denied the Church’s application, claiming that allowing the congregation to rent the facility would be “substantially impairing the intent of the master plan and zoning ordinance.” The zoning ordinance, however, freely permits non-religious assembly uses such as municipal buildings, daycare centers, and recreational facilities in industrial zones. Of the 20 different zoning districts in the Township, only one freely permits religious institutions, and that district is already fully occupied. The zoning board also expressed concerns about whether the building’s 37 available parking spots would be adequate, despite the church’s small size and with the building’s other tenants not open on the weekends.

My Father’s House’s attorney, John W. Mauck of Mauck & Baker, LLC, in Chicago, says, “Delanco Township argues that it could not allow My Father’s House in the Industrial zoning district because doing so would threaten the ‘intent of the master plan.’ Such an argument misunderstands the purpose of the variance process which is to adjust and make accommodations when the zoning code treats the people and property owners harshly and unreasonably.”

Pastor Donshae Joyner of My Father’s House says, “We simply wish to have a permanent meeting place for our worship services. Yet the township refuses to let us in rent one of the few vacant properties available within out budget range. Our church strives to live at peace within our community, but we feel we are left with no other choice.”

View Complaint

For press inquiries, contact attorney John Mauck at 312-853-8709 or jmauck@mauckbaker.com, attorney Noel Sterett at 312-726-6454 or nsterett@mauckbaker.com, and Pastor Donshae Joyner at 609-790-0877 ext. 101 or pastordonashae@mfhministry.org.

Delanco Township Attorney Dennis Germano, (856) 793-7482