The New York Court of Appeals ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that a 2001 New York zoning ordinance that banned “adult” establishments from residential and most commercial and manufacturing zones was not a violation of the owners’ First Amendment rights. The zoning ordinance classified adult eating and drinking establishments as “regularly featuring live performances characterized by an emphasis on specified anatomical areas or specified sexual activities in any portion of the establishment.” The ordinance classified adult bookstores as establishments with at least 40 percent of their floor/stock dedicated to adult purposes. Many establishments attempted to circumvent the ordinances in place before this 2001 amendment. The court held that the city satisfied its burden of proving that many businesses were in “sham” compliance with the older ordinances, which justified strengthening the initial ordinances with the 2001 amendments.
Zoning ordinances can be a source on controversy in regard to the constitutional rights of people as well as business owners. In January, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down [JURIST report] Chicago restrictions on gun ranges throughout the city. The court held that these restrictions violated Chicago citizens’ Second Amendment rights because they were excessively broad and were not supported by evidence demonstrating the city’s interest in regulating gun ranges. In July the US Department of Justice brought a lawsuit against a Pennsylvania town for denying zoning approval to a mosque in 2014. In January 2014 a judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois struck down [JURIST report] a Chicago ordinance that banned the licensed sale of firearms in the city. In 2014 in Kennesaw, Georgia, the Kennesaw City Council refused to issue a permit [JURIST op-ed] to build a mosque in a “retail only district” despite having done so for a Pentecostal church prior. The city council overturned its decision after the DOJ threatened file suit against the city.