Baltimore City Synagogue Argues Stormwater Fee Violates Religious Rights

An April 30 Daily Record article reported that the Baltimore City synagogue, Shaarei Tfiloh Congregation, is challenging the requirement that it must pay a stormwater fee by alleging that the fee violates the synagogue’s religious rights.  The synagogue has filed for judicial review with the Baltimore City Circuit Court, alleging that the application of the stormwater fee to religious institutions is unconstitutional.  From the article:

“It’s not a question of dollars and cents as the fact they have to pay at all,” said Joshua M. Ambush of the Law Offices of Joshua M. Ambush LLC in Pikesville, a lawyer for the synagogue. “This is a constitutional issue that faces not just this synagogue but all synagogues, churches and mosques.”

Shaarei Tfiloh argues the fee also violates the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which prohibits a government from placing a “substantial burden” on religious institutions through land-use regulations. …

In Baltimore, City Solicitor George A. Nilson said some religious organizations “grumbled” when the fee was enacted but the Department of Public Works has worked with many on reducing stormwater runoff.

Shaarei Tfiloh’s challenge to the fee was the first [from a religious organization], according to [Baltimore City Solicitor George] Nilson, who added the Law Department has been examining the issue for a year.

“I’m very confident we will prevail on appeal,” he said. …

The case is In the Matter of the Petition of Shaarei Tfiloh Congregation, 24C15002026.