Islamic Congregation Overcomes One More Roadblock In Effort To Build Chino Mosque

(May 24) The Al-Nur Islamic Center, a congregation of some 200 Muslims, this week made a major stride in establishing a Mosque in the unincorporated area of San Bernardino County north of Chino, south of Montclair, west of Ontario and east of the Los Angeles County Line.
The county board of supervisors  over the objections of nearby residents gave the congregation approval this week to hold daily prayer meetings involving up to 30 people at a time at a single family residence located at 4797 Phillips Blvd until that property is converted to a mosque.
In February 2012, the board of supervisors on a 4-1 vote gave approval to the center’s conditional use permit application to erect a 7,512-square-foot 262-person capacity mosque on the 1.54-acre property that currently includes the residence, which would be razed to accommodate the house of worship. That approval was conditional upon the mosque converting the existing septic system on the property to discharge into one of the nearby sewage systems maintained by either Chino or Montclair.
Residents of the neighborhood, which involves residential and agricultural properties, under the aegis of a coalition calling itself Save Our Uniquely Rural Community Environment (SOURCE),  in March 2012 brought suit against the county and Al-Nur Islamic Center, maintaining the Mosque violated the California Environmental Quality Act and other environmental laws by not making adequate mitigation for an increase in traffic, sound and effluent around, at and from the property.
Chino, in whose sphere of influence the property lies, supported SOURCE in its objection to the project. Despite that, on  February 6, 2013, the Superior Court issued a ruling finding that the approval was in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act in all aspects except for sanitation. According to the writ that was issued in conjunction with the ruling, the county is required to set aside the environmental finding and all approvals associated with the conditional use permit for the project and prepare an analysis of sanitation that complies with the California Environmental Quality Act. Upon the county’s fulfillment of that condition, work on the Mosque can begin.
“Staff will bring forth a separate item to accomplish this once the appeal period has run and no appeals are filed,” said Tom Hudson, the county’s director of land use services in a report dated May 21.
Last summer, while the lawsuit was yet pending, the congregation applied for an interim operation temporary use permit, known as a TUP to establish a temporary place of worship within the existing 2,200 square-foot residential structure on the property. On September 7, 2012, county land use services staff conditionally approved the TUP, which provided for a maximum occupancy of 30 persons at each of five daily prayer meetings to be held during the hours of: 5 a.m. – 6 a.m., 1 p.m. – 2 p.m., 3 p.m. – 4 p.m., 6 p.m. – 7 p.m., and 8 p.m. – 9 p.m.
On September 17, 2012, two residents of the neighborhood – Carol Yonan and Diane Schumann – filed a timely appeal of the TUP approval. This week, the board of supervisors took up that appeal. County staff reviewed the appeal, said Hudson, who wrote in the May 21 report, “The structure at the project site remains a single-family residence, which fact accords the owner the right to use it within the parameters of that legally established use.” Hudson then referenced California Environmental Quality Act  Class 1 and Class 3 categorical exemptions, which pertain to the use or minor alteration to existing facilities and conversion of small structures, respectively, and stated, “The TUP proposes to establish a temporary place of worship within the existing 2,200 square-foot residential structure with a maximum occupancy of 30 persons. In coordination with the county building and safety division, it was determined that there are no new construction requirements, as the threshold for an assembly occupancy is 50 persons. As such, the proposed temporary use of the existing structure qualifies for both Class 1 and Class 3 categorical exemptions.”
Michael Ruttle, an attorney representing SOURCE asserted that nearby residents had repeatedly asked to be notified of any granting of a TUP and did not receive notice, that the California Environmental Quality Act requires public agencies to assess the environmental impact of actions prior to making any decisions that may have a significant impact on the environment, that a discretionary project cannot be approved without performing environmental review, that the numerous conditions set forth in the conditions of approval should have been met before the TUP was granted and that illegal gatherings have been held at the property and complaints to the San Bernardino County Sheriff and the county’s code enforcement division pertaining to the property have been ignored.
The Al-Nur congregation was represented by attorney Warren Inuoye, who said Al-Nur is in compliance with state laws and locally imposed conditions and is operating legally. “This is the USA. This mosque is entitled to a temporary use permit,” Inuoye said.
Voting 3-1  with Gary Ovitt dissenting and Josie Gonzales absent, the board of supervisors denied Yonan and Schumann’s appeal and upheld the planning staff with regard to the TUP and the planning commission with regard to the mosque approval.

Leave a Reply