Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Zoning Law and Church Property
Does a Little League program violate zoning law?
Ohio
State:

An Ohio appeals court ruled that a church could use its property to conduct a "Little League" baseball program, despite the claim of a neighbor that such use violated local zoning law. A Methodist church established a baseball diamond on vacant land that it owned in order to operate a Little League baseball program. The church maintained that it is a fundamental tenet of Methodism that worship involves not only religious services, but also reaching out to the community through sponsorship of activities such as scouting and Little League. The baseball program sponsored by the church is for children ages 6 to 12. The season extends from April to late June, during which time about 4 games are played each week from 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays and on Saturday mornings. To reduce parking problems in front of the complaining neighbor's house, "no parking" signs were installed on his property and orange pylons were placed in front of his property during games. Despite these precautions, the neighbor sued the church, demanding that the baseball program be discontinued. He claimed that the program violated local zoning law. The church property was located in a residential zone, which permitted churches and "church use." A trial court agreed with the neighbor that the operation of a baseball program on church property was not a permitted use of church property in an area zoned for "church use." The church appealed. A state appeals court agreed with the church and permitted the baseball program to continue. The court observed: "The trial court appears to suggest that a church is only a building and any use of the building or land adjacent must be necessary to the operation of that building as a church. We disagree." The court noted that the Ohio Supreme Court had not addressed this issue specifically, but that courts in other states had done so and they generally ruled in favor of the church. For example, one court in a similar case concluded:

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Posted: March 2, 1992
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