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Midrash Sephardi, Inc. v. Town of Surfside

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

April 21, 2004, Decided ; April 21, 2004, Filed

No. 03-13858


 [*1218]  WILSON, Circuit Judge:

Young Israel of Bal Harbour ("Young Israel") and Midrash Sephardi ("Midrash"), two synagogues serving the Surfside-Bal  [*1219]  Harbour-Bay Harbor Islands area of Miami-Dade County, Florida, appeal the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the Town of Surfside ("Surfside") on the synagogues' claims challenging the Surfside Zoning Ordinance ("SZO") under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA" or the "Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc et seq. 2 We first hold that the SZO's provision excluding churches and synagogues from locations where private clubs and lodges are permitted violates the equal terms provision of RLUIPA. Consequently, we must decide whether RLUIPA is a constitutional exercise of Congress's authority under the First, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Finding [**2]  that it is, we reverse the decision of the district court.


Surfside, a small coastal town north of the City of Miami Beach and south of Bal Harbour, Florida, comprises roughly one square mile and has approximately 4,300 residents and an additional estimated tourist population of 2,030. Midrash and Young Israel (collectively the "congregations") are small Orthodox Jewish synagogues that serve the Surfside area. Together they have over one hundred members who reside in or around Surfside; their attendance triples during the winter tourist months. In addition to Midrash and Young Israel, two churches and two other synagogues presently operate in Surfside.

I. The Challenged Ordinance

] Chapter [**3]  90 of the Code of the Town of Surfside, Florida, (hereinafter "SZO § X") divides Surfside into eight zoning districts, identified in Article III of the SZO. Article IV of the SZO sets forth the specific regulations governing the applicable districts, and delineates permitted uses as of right, and uses permitted subject only to special use permit or prior conditional use approval. Surfside's zoning scheme is permissive: any use not specifically permitted is prohibited. See SZO § 90-6(1).

] Under Article IV, churches and synagogues are prohibited in seven of the eight zoning districts. SZO permits churches and synagogues in the "RD-1 two-family residential district" ("RD-1 district") by way of conditional use permit ("CUP") obtained after approval by the Surfside Town Commission. SZO § 90-147(d). The SZO requires a CUP because conditional uses are "generally of a public or semipublic character . . . but because of the nature of the use and possible impact on neighboring properties, require the exercise of planning judgment. . . ." SZO § 90-41(a). CUPs are also required for educational institutions and museums, off-street parking lots and garages, public and governmental buildings,  [**4]  and public utilities. See SZO § 90-41(b)(1) -(5). 3

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366 F.3d 1214 *; 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 7706 **; 17 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 453

MIDRASH SEPHARDI, INC., YOUNG ISRAEL OF BAL HARBOR, INC., Plaintiffs-Counter-Defendants-Appellants, versus TOWN OF SURFSIDE, a Florida Municipal Corporation, Defendant-Counter-Claimant-Appellee, PAUL NOVACK, Individually and in his capacity as Mayor of the Town of Surfside, et al., Defendants.

Subsequent History: Rehearing, en banc, denied by Midrash Sephardi v. Town of Surfside, 116 Fed. Appx. 254, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 27593 (11th Cir., 2004)

US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Town of Surfside v. Midrash Sephardi, Inc., 543 U.S. 1146, 125 S. Ct. 1295, 161 L. Ed. 2d 106, 2005 U.S. LEXIS 1466 (2005)

Prior History:  [**1]  Appeals from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. D.C. Docket No. 99-01566-CV-UUB.

Sephardi v. Town of Surfside, 2003 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28097 (S.D. Fla., May 13, 2003)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.


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Business & Corporate Compliance, Real Property Law, Zoning, Ordinances, Real Property Law, General Overview, Variances, Environmental Law, Land Use & Zoning, Conditional Use Permits & Variances, Transportation Law, Traffic Regulation, Parking, Parking Facilities, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Religion, Free Exercise of Religion, Governments, Courts, Authority to Adjudicate, Environmental Law, Comprehensive & General Plans, Comprehensive Plans, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Case or Controversy, Constitutionality of Legislation, Legislation, Interpretation, Discovery, Methods of Discovery, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Genuine Disputes, Materiality of Facts, Supporting Materials, Burdens of Proof, Preliminary Considerations, Justiciability, Standing, Elements, Case & Controversy Requirements, Ripeness, The Judiciary, Ripeness, Particular Parties, Purchase & Sale, Option Contracts, Judicial & Legislative Restraints, Overbreadth & Vagueness of Legislation, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Prisoner Rights, Freedom of Religion, Constitutional Limits, Contractual Relations & Housing, Fair Housing Rights, Equal Protection, Local Governments, Claims By & Against, Religious Freedom, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Nature & Scope of Protection, Federal Government, US Congress, Enactment, Bill of Rights, Substantive Due Process, Scope, Establishment of Religion, Congressional Duties & Powers, Public Health & Welfare Law, Social Services, Institutionalized Individuals, Confinement Conditions, Finance, Reserved Powers