The Religious Land Use Working Group serves as a resource to Montgomery County faith communities and the county in educating and advocating on land use and related matters. The relationship between local governments and faith communities is a complex network of shared and competing interests. In some areas, they are natural allies, while in other areas they are natural competitors. And in still other areas, they are a little of both.
When it comes to tax policy, the vested interests of local governments and faith communities are in direct opposition. After all, the more faith communities that are established in any locality, the less property that is available for taxation. And the more property that is kept taxable in any locality, the less room there is for faith communities. Because of this, local governments are under constant pressure to find ways to place more restrictive interpretations on what constitutes religious use for initial religious-use property tax exemption and to find ways to reduce or eliminate religious-use property tax exemptions on currently non-taxed properties.
Land Use Policy
Local governments and faith communities are allies in some aspects of land use policy. Faith communities often support land use planning and zoning that maintain green areas, set aside agricultural and forest protection zones, and promote reforestation. However, the manner in which local governments implement land use policy frequently—and often inadvertently—turns the relationship between them and their local faith communities adversarial. For instance, afforestation requirements imposed in an all-or-nothing manner may constitute an insurmountable burden for many smaller congregations. In addition, zoning decisions may be used to limit where faith communities may locate, resulting in a higher percentage of faith communities operating out of rented space, thus maintaining more taxable property.
Working Group Members
Joseph Chang (Co-Chair)
Michael Oleru (Co-Chair)