Twice Approved Mosque Now Hit With Third Legal Challenge

After twice succeeding at the county planning and governmental level with its application to establish a mosque in an unincorporated pocket of county land between Ontario and the Los Angeles County line on the east and west and between the Chino and Montclair city limits on the south and north, the Al-Nur Islamic Center will now have to sustain the expense of defending its effort to build a temple in court.
A group of homeowners living near the proposed project site on a 1.54-acre parcel at 4797 W. Phillips Boulevard approximately 330 feet east of Yorba Avenue have filed a lawsuit to block or delay the construction of the mosque, asserting it will harm the environment and overwhelm the rural character of their neighborhood with excessive traffic.
Rashid Ahmed, chairman of the Al-Nur Islamic Center, applied on March 12, 2010 for a permit that would provide for the establishment of a 16,763 square foot structure that was to include a variety of ancillary uses such as a caretaker’s unit, a multipurpose hall, senior citizen activity center, senior citizen library, kitchen, health clinic, and nine classrooms. Ultimately, the scope of the project was scaled back and the county planning commission by a 4-1 vote on December 8, 2011 granted a conditional use permit for the 7,512-square religious center, which is to have a maximum occupancy of 262 people.
Nearby residents, however, led by Jim Weedell, appealed the county planning commission’s approval to the county board of supervisors. On February 28, the board heard that appeal and voted 4-1, with supervisor Gary Ovitt dissenting, to follow county land use director Christine Kelly’s recommendation to deny the appeal and uphold the project approval. That approval of the project included conditions for the inclusion of 88 parking spaces at the site, limitations on motorists entering and exiting the project site such that they could do so by means of right turns only,  the requirement of a minimum 10-foot wide landscaped setback in conjunction with a maximum six-foot high decorative block wall to provide buffering between the mosque and the existing residences, which is intended to shield the adjacent properties from any headlights from cars exiting or entering the site. There was also an apparent requirement that the property be annexed to the city of Chino so the property could hook into that city’s sewer system.
Despite those conditions,  a local homeowners group calling itself “Save Our Uniquely Rural Community Environment” hired an attorney, Torrance-based attorney Victor Otten, who  filed a lawsuit last week on the group’s behalf in San Bernardino Superior Court.
Citing the California Environmental Quality Act, the suit alleges the approved plans for the mosque do not adequately mitigate negative effects on residents’ views, traffic, wastewater system and water runoff.
“This proposed project changes the quiet rural character of the neighborhood with an unwanted increase of vehicular traffic and parking,” the suit states. “It will also result in environmental impacts related to aesthetics, landscape, views, construction, sewage and runoff impacts from the project.”
The suit requests that the court cancel the county’s approval of the mosque and require the completion of an environmental impact report that must be incorporated into a future application for reapproval.

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