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Definition of "Church" for Zoning Purposes

Not all church-owned buildings qualify as a "church" under zoning law.

Key point. The definition of a "church" for purposes of zoning laws may not include a church-owned building used for social events.
• A North Carolina court ruled that a church-owned house used by a church for social events was not a "church" for purposes of a local zoning law. The zoning law permitted "churches" in a city's historic district. A church owned a house in the historic district that was used for such purposes as bridge club, social gatherings, community functions, and occasional choir practices and religious instruction. The church planned to sell the home to an individual who wanted to use the home for a "bed and breakfast" establishment. The city informed the purchaser that such a use would not be permitted. The purchaser argued that the church's use of the home was also a "nonconforming" use that was allowed by the city and that could be continued by future owners. ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • May 1, 1997

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