The heavily Jewish Montreal suburb of Côte Saint-Luc is attempting to address the issue of an increasing number of home-based synagogues by encouraging them to move into commercial properties.
According to the Canadian Jewish News, the city council voted unanimously to pass the first draft of a bylaw change that would let religious groups open up places of worship in buildings located in commercial zones.
With the legislation, Côte Saint-Luc, which is over 70 percent Jewish, was responding to the influx of mostly Orthodox home-based synagogues opening up in residential areas in recent years.
All nine city council members are Jewish.
Their proposed regulatory change would attempt to convince the synagogues to move to buildings in four rezoned commercial areas, which are mostly shopping centers. If they refuse to move, they would have to go through a lengthy process of petitioning to have their current properties rezoned, and under provincial law residents living in the vicinity would have final approval over zoning changes.
At the March 14 council meeting, Côte Saint-Luc Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said that the goal was to create a future which "accommodates the secular community and the religious community in harmony.”
Brownstein explained that the new bylaw provides multiple alternative locations outside residential zones for the synagogues to relocate.
“They can apply to stay where they are; it’s up to the public to agree or not. Many have been there many years and been accepted by the community. Others might not be,” he said. “What we are doing today really is to ensure that the future of our community provides for the growth, where needed, of religious prayer in commercial zones, areas where the community will embrace, whether they are religious or not, that type of congregation.”