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State high courts move forward on housing discrimination case

Zoning laws aren't something that the average citizen in Florida thinks about, but it's something builders and construction companies think about all the time. Getting the appropriate zoning for a particular area while staying within the boundaries of the law can be tricky.

For residents in New York, zoning laws in one Long Island community raised several red flags which in turn caused the state's Division of Human Rights to file a lawsuit against the town of Oyster Bay, stating that the laws may have been discriminatory.

In 2009, the DHR claimed that the zoning laws on commercial property, such as senior and assisted living communities, perpetuated segregation in the predominantly white Long Island town. The town allegedly sued to void the complaint and block the agency from launching a full investigation.

But in a unanimous decision in October, the Court of Appeals found that the town could not move forward with their suit unless they "resolved factual issues" in an administrative hearing. According to the state's high courts, the DHR did not overstep its jurisdiction when it filed its complaint against the town's zoning laws.

Cases such as this are difficult for defendants because they must prove without a shadow of a doubt that the zoning laws in no way discriminate against minorities within the community. In the case of the Long Island town, prosecutors point out that roughly 1.6 percent of the town's population is black and that the zoning laws in place seem to favor the white population.

The judge points out that the DHR has not accused the town of any wrong doing but stresses the importance for the town to be able to defend its claims against the accusations.

Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, "Housing discrimination claims vs Long Island town can move forward: high court," Daniel Wiessner, Oct. 18, 2012

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