Group sues over decision to allow Islamic center near John Wayne Airport

An association representing business owners in Costa Mesa has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the City Council’s decision to allow an Islamic group to open a gathering center in a business park next to John Wayne Airport.

The suit alleges the approval violates property rights by giving privileges to the center that aren’t enjoyed by other tenants in the area.

The Koll-Irvine Community Assn., which encompasses the business park located south of the 405 Freeway next to the airport, is looking to overturn the council’s vote that cleared the way for the Ismailis, a branch of Shia Islam, to open a 6,000-square-foot center.

“The evidence before the council did not support the decision,” states the lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court.

City spokesman Tony Dodero said that Costa Mesa had received the lawsuit but that he could not comment on pending litigation.

The council’s 3-2 vote in March overturned an earlier Planning Commission decision to deny the Ismailis’ proposed jamatkhana — a gathering place used for religious, cultural and educational purposes. The commission had ruled in February that the facility would put further stress on the area’s parking.

In the lawsuit, the association says allowing the Ismailis to open shop will impact the property rights of its membership.

“The business park is a shared-use ownership; the association owns the common area, and all of the businesses have to share the parking area and the common area,” said attorney Michael Leifer, who is representing the association. “And what appears to be happening is that the city’s approval purports to give the religious center rights that are different and potentially superior to rights of other businesses in the park.”

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Essentially, Leifer said Friday, the city is “purporting to be the referee, umpire, arbitrator of a division of a shared property right that it doesn’t have the power to do.”

Some business owners in the park recently sent letters urging the Planning Commission to deny another project in the area — an educational nonprofit organization that offers musical theater and performing arts classes — saying it would further exacerbate parking issues.

lucas.money@latimes.com

Money writes for Times Community News.

 

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