Court Order Struck Down in New Jersey Teepee Dispute


A judge struck down a court order that temporarily barred a Native American tribe in New Jersey from erecting teepees.

Superior Court Judge Charles Powers Jr. found Mahwah failed to prove the Ramapough Lenape Nation’s actions demonstrated “imminent and irreparable harm.” But he also dismissed the tribe’s argument that it is entitled to relief from the township’s zoning law because it has freedom of religion.

Mahwah can enforce zoning laws and regulations, Judge Powers wrote.

Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry told The Record that he’s pleased with the judge’s decision.

There are no winners or losers in the case, Mayor Bill Laforet said.

The teepees first came to the township’s attention after residents in a nearby affluent neighborhood called the Polo Club and made several disturbance complaints.

Township officials claimed the tribe failed to obtain proper zoning permits and started sending the group summonses in December. The Ramapoughs were given a chance to submit zoning applications and site plans in January.

Township officials denied a zoning application submitted in April because it didn’t have a site plan.

The tribe will continue to hold gatherings on their property.

“We’re not going to be doing anything differently than we have been for 25 years,” Perry said.

The tribe will seek a zoning change to allow it to use the property for religious and cultural purposes.

Mayor Laforet denied claims that the township’s prodding was influenced by Polo Club residents.

“It’s only ever been about the zoning violations,” Laforet said.

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