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Salem decides not to fight church

SALEM – After legal advice from the city attorney, the City of Salem has decided not to fight a local church’s request to locate on commercial-zoned property.

The decision was announced the afternoon of Feb. 4, after Salem City Council members met the day before with City Attorney Steve Yost in a closed session to be briefed on legal precedents.

Council was scheduled to hold a public hearing on the matter on Feb. 8, which will probably be postponed.

After the Salem Planning Commission recommended denial of CommUNITY Church’s zoning application for a building on Russell Drive, the church retained an attorney who notified the city federal law gives the church the right to use the property.

In a statement released Feb. 4, Council released a prepared statement that said “After a great deal of consultation and research, the City of Salem has determined that it is not in the city’s best interest to challenge a federal statute in an effort to keep CommUNITY Church from locating on Russell Drive and occupying a building situated in an area that is currently zoned business-commerce.

“…Although the City will not be rezoning the property as requested, it recognizes, in these unique circumstances, that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 takes priority.”

City leaders said part of their decision was the potential for a legal battle to be both lengthly and costly.

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