United States of America v. Pittsfield Charter Township
CONSENT ORDER. Signed by District Judge Matthew F. Leitman. (HMon)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Civil No. 15-13779
Hon. Matthew F. Leitman
PITTSFIELD CHARTER TOWNSHIP,
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
This Consent Order (“Order”) is entered between the United
States of America (“the United States”) and Pittsfield Charter Township,
Michigan (“Pittsfield Township” or “the Township").
The United States brought this action on October 26, 2015 to
enforce provisions of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act
of 2000 (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, et seq. This Court has jurisdiction
over the subject matter of this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345
and 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-2.
Defendant Pittsfield Township is a municipal corporation and
political subdivision of the State of Michigan. The Township has the authority
to regulate and restrict the use of land and structures within its borders, including
granting and denying rezoning petitions. The Township is governed by a sevenperson Board of Trustees, which votes on some land use decisions after receiving
recommendations from the Township's Planning Commission.
Pittsfield Township is a “government” within the meaning of 42
U.S.C. § 2000cc 5(4)(A).
Pittsfield Township’s processes and requirements regarding the
granting or denial of a rezoning petition constitute “land use regulation[s]”
under RLUIPA, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc 5(5).
Michigan Islamic Academy (“MIA”) is a full-time Islamic
School, pre-kindergarten through Grade 12, located in Ann Arbor,
Michigan. MIA currently operates out of a building that it shares with the
Muslim Community Center of Ann Arbor and Vicinity (“MCA”), a
community center and mosque, on a 2.7 acre property in Ann Arbor.
MCA and MIA are “religious institution[s]” under RLUIPA, 42
U.S.C. § 2000cc (a)-(b).
MIA’s operation as a religious school constitutes “religious
exercise” under RLUIPA, 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc 5(7)(A)-(B).
On September 8, 2010, Mr. Said Issa purchased a 26.7 acre
tract of undeveloped land in Pittsfield Township for $260,000.00 (the
The site was zoned as part of a residential planned unit
development (“PUD”). In about June 2015, the property was conveyed to
MIA with some restrictions, allowing MIA access to 5 acres to build a
On December 6, 2010, MIA submitted a petition to the
Township to amend/rezone the existing residential PUD to allow
construction of a one-story school building.
On August 4, 2011, the
Planning Commission voted to recommend to the Board of Trustees that it
deny MIA's rezoning petition.
On October 26, 2011, the Board of
Trustees voted to adopt the Planning Commission's recommendation and
denied MIA's rezoning petition.
The United States alleges in its Complaint that the Board’s denial
of MIA’s rezoning petition violated provisions of RLUIPA.
Township denies those allegations.
The United States and Pittsfield Township agree that the United
States’ claims should be resolved amicably and without further litigation.
Accordingly, the United States and Pittsfield Township agree to the terms of
and entry of this Consent Order, as indicated by their signatures below.
Nothing in this Consent Order constitutes nor should be considered
to constitute any admission of wrongdoing or liability by Pittsfield Township
and Pittsfield Township specifically denies any and all allegations of
wrongdoing or liability.
Therefore, it is hereby ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED as
MICHIGAN ISLAMIC ACADEMY’S USE OF THE
PROPERTY FOR A SCHOOL
The Township agrees to abide by the terms of the Consent
Judgment filed concurrently with this Order in the case titled Muslim
Community Association of Ann Arbor and Vicinity v. Pittsfield Charter
Township, U.S. Eastern District Court Case No.: 12-CV-10803, which includes
the right of MIA to build its requested school on the Property subject to the
terms of the Consent Judgment.
NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC
Within 60 days after the date of entry of this Order, Pittsfield
Township shall do the following:
The Township shall post and maintain
printed signs regarding their obligations under RLUIPA within
sight of each public entrance to the Pittsfield Township City
Government Office Building located at 6201 Michigan Avenue.
The signs shall conform to Appendix A;
Internet Posting. The Township shall post and
maintain on the first page of its I n t e r n e t
(http://pittsfield- mi.gov/) for not less than 180 days a notice
stating the following in type equivalent in size to the majority of
other type on the page. The notice shall read, "Consistent with
the United States Constitution and the Religious Land Use and
Township does not apply its zoning or land use laws in a manner
that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a
person, including a religious assembly or institution, does not
apply its zoning or land use laws in a manner that treats religious
assemblies or institutions on less than equal terms than
discriminate on the basis of religion in the application of its
laws, policies, or procedures, including the application of its
land use regulations and zoning laws."
Future Religious Use Applicants. The Township will
act on any and all applications or inquiries about a Conditional
Use Permit, Rezoning, Variance, Special Exception, or other land
use determination concerning the religious use of property in the
same manner as the Township would regarding any other
applicant, but taking any and all such different or additional
actions as may be necessary to satisfy all provisions of RLUIPA.
Within 90 days after the entry of this Order, each person with
responsibilities relating to the implementation and enforcement of any zoning
or land use regulations within the Township shall be given a copy of, and be
required to read, this Order, and shall sign the statement appearing at
Appendix B. Each such individual that commences responsibilities relating to
the implementation and enforcement of any zoning or land use regulations
within the Township at a time after 90 days after the entry of this Order shall be
given a copy of, and be required to read, this Order, and shall sign the
statement appearing at Appendix B, within 10 days of the commencement of
Within 90 days after the entry of this Order, the Township shall
provide training on the requirements of RLUIPA to all members of the
Township Board of Trustees, all members of the Planning Commission, all
members of the Township's Planning Department, all members of the
Township's Legal Department, all members of the Township's Code
Compliance Department, and any other Township elected official, appointee,
employee, or contractor involved in the review of land use applications. The
training shall be conducted by a qualified person or organization selected by
the Township Attorney and approved by the United States, which approval
shall not be unreasonably withheld. Within 120 days after the entry of this
Order, the Township shall secure and deliver to counsel for the United States
a written certification of each individual's attendance at the RLUIPA training,
together with a copy of all training materials, including but not limited to a
course syllabus, outline, or other written handouts. The Township shall pay
all training costs.
REPORTING, RECORD-KEEPING, AND MONITORING
Within 180 days after the date of entry of this Order, and every six
(6) months thereafter, the Township shall send a report evidencing its
compliance with this Order to counsel for the United States,1 except that the last
report shall be filed 60 days prior to the fifth anniversary of the Order. This
report shall consist of appropriate documentary evidence, including but not
limited to the text of all new policies or procedures implemented as a result of
this Order, demonstrating the Township’s compliance with Sections II-IV of
For purposes of this Order, all submissions to the United States or its counsel
should be submitted to: Chief, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, Civil
Rights Division, United States Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue,
N.W., Washington, D.C. 20530, Attn: DJ# 210-37-11, Fax: 202-514-1116, or as
otherwise directed by the United States.
The Township shall notify the United States in writing within 60
days of all amendments to the Township's zoning code that have been
approved during the duration of this Order by the Township and that affect
religious land use. The notification shall include copies of all such approved
amendments, which copies shall be maintained by the Township.
The Township shall maintain copies of all written applications
that seek the Township's consideration or approval of any land use for
religious purpose. The Township may maintain such copies in the manner that
it would maintain copies of written applications for any other land use
application for any other purposes, but must retain them for the duration of this
Order. Such applications include, without limitation, conditional use permits,
applications for rezoning, variances, building permits, special permits,
renewals of permits, special exemptions, and zoning text amendments.
The Township shall maintain copies of all written complaints it
receives concerning any alleged restriction or prohibition by the Township
of, or interference with, the use of land in the Township for religious purpose
throughout the duration of this Order. If the complaint is oral, the Township
shall request the complainant make the complaint in writing. The Township
shall advise the United States within 15 days after receipt of any such written
The Township shall retain all records related to the Michigan
Islamic Academy. These records shall include, but are not limited to:
Correspondence to the Township concerning
the Michigan Islamic Academy;
or other enforcement
concerning the Michigan Islamic Academy;
Any information concerning alleged or actual
harassment or threatening conduct directed at the
Michigan Islamic Academy or its members; and
Any law enforcement or investigative action
taken by the Township concerning the Michigan
Nothing in this paragraph requires the Township to maintain all documents
produced in the discovery process in Muslim Community Association of Ann
Arbor and Vicinity v. Pittsfield Charter Township, U.S. Eastern District Court
Case No.: 12-CV-10803, but instead this paragraph applies to those documents
existing in the official records of the Township as of October 26, 2011, and those
above-described documents received by or sent by the Township during the
duration of this Order.
INSPECTION OF RECORDS
For the duration of this Order, upon reasonable written notice, of
not less than 30 days, by counsel for the United States to counsel for the
Township, the Township shall permit representatives of the United States to
inspect and copy all non-privileged pertinent records of the Township
referenced in paragraphs 18-22 of this Order, provided the United States has not
inspected the Township’s records pursuant to this provision in the previous six
Any inspection or copying of documents as referenced in this
paragraph shall be conducted at a time and place mutually convenient to the
VII. DURATION OF ORDER AND TERMINATION
OF LEGAL ACTION
The Court shall retain jurisdiction for the duration of this Order
to enforce the terms. The duration of this Order shall be a period of five (5)
years from the date of its entry. The United States may file a motion with
the Court to extend the duration of the Order in the event of noncompliance,
whether intentional or not, with any of its terms, or if it believes the interests
of justice so require. The Township may respond to the motion consistent with
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and this Court’s Local Rules.
Any time limits for performance imposed by this Order may be
extended by the mutual written agreement of the Parties.
The Parties shall endeavor in good faith to resolve informally
any differences regarding interpretation of or compliance with this Order
prior to bringing such matters to the Court for resolution. If the Parties cannot
resolve their differences informally, they may move this Court for relief
allowed by law or equity.
This Order contains the entire agreement between the United
States and the Township. No agreements or negotiations, oral or otherwise,
between the Parties that are not included herein shall be of any force or
TERMINATION OF LITIGATION HOLD
The parties agree that, as of the date of the entry of this Consent
Order, litigation is not "reasonably foreseeable" concerning the matters
described above or in the United States' Complaint. To the extent that any party
previously implemented a litigation hold to preserve documents, electronically
stored information (ESI), or things related to the matters described above, the
party is no longer required to maintain such litigation hold. Nothing in this
paragraph relieves any party of any other obligations imposed by this Consent
NO COSTS OR FEES
The parties will bear their own costs and fees associated with
MERGER OF CLAIMS
This Consent Order binds all parties to the full and final
resolution that is described herein of all actual and potential interests,
allegations, defenses, claims, counterclaims, and relating to the subject
matter of the disputes that have been raised or could have been raised in
ENTERED THIS 14th day of October, 2016.
s/Matthew F. Leitman
MATTHEW F. LEITMAN
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: October 14, 2016
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was served upon the
parties and/or counsel of record on October 14, 2016, by electronic means and/or
s/Holly A. Monda
CONSISTENT WITH THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
PERSONS ACT OF 2000, PITTSFIELD CHARTER TOWNSHIP DOES
NOT APPLY ITS LAND USE REGULATIONS AND ZONING LAWS IN
A MANNER THAT IMPOSE A SUBSTANTIAL BURDEN ON THE FREE
EXERCISE OF RELIGION, TREAT RELIGIOUS
INSTITUTIONS LESS EQUALLY THAN NONRELIGIOUS ASSEMBLIES
OR INSTITUTIONS, OR DISCRIMINATE ON THE BASIS OF RELIGION.
CERTIFICATION OF RECEIPT OF CONSENT ORDER
, certify that I have received a
copy of the Consent Order entered by the United States District Court for the
Eastern District of Michigan in United States v. Pittsfield Charter Township,
Michigan, Civ. No. 2:15-cv-13779 (E.D. Mich.). I further certify that I have
read and understand the aforementioned Consent Order, that all my questions
were answered concerning it, and that I understand that my violation of this
Consent Order may result in sanctions against the Pittsfield Charter Township.
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