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Copyright (c) 2009 Duke Law Journal
Duke Law Journal


March, 2009

Duke Law Journal

58 Duke L.J. 1071


Sarah Keeton Campbell+


In the historic town of Goldsboro, North Carolina, churches - not shops and restaurants - occupy many of the downtown storefronts. 1 On a short stretch of Walnut Street alone, there are five storefront churches. City officials with an eye toward downtown revitalization and economic development have debated whether permitting churches to locate in these downtown storefronts is consistent with plans for downtown growth. 2 On one hand, churches provide a stable source of rental income for many downtown building owners who might otherwise struggle to find tenants. 3 On the other hand, opponents of the storefront churches argue that tax-exempt churches contribute little to the downtown tax base and can stymie efforts to open downtown bars and restaurants because of regulations prohibiting alcohol sales within fifty feet of schools and places of worship. 4

Goldsboro's zoning ordinance permits places of worship to locate downtown, though it requires every place of worship to locate at least one hundred feet from the next. 5 Officials in other cities, frustrated by weak downtown tax bases and impediments to downtown revitalization, have banned churches from the downtown district altogether. 6 For example, another small town in North Carolina adopted a temporary ban on churches in its downtown area in 2006. 7 City leaders argue that such bans are necessary to promote economic development, but churches and other places of worship excluded from downtown districts have frequently turned to the courts, alleging that the bans, or similarly restrictive zoning ...
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