Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Mosque Uses Lawsuit to Abolish Zoning Power of Small California Community - Georgine Scott-Codiga

by Georgine Scott-Codiga

For Muslims, "Cordoba" is a symbol of religious revenge and domination.

In a small rural area of Santa Clara County California lies a geographically unique area of land called San Martin, close to, but not of, Silicon Valley.

In 1981 the Board of Supervisors established the San Martin Planning Advisory Committee (SMPAC), the only entity of its kind in the county, to give local residents and land owners a voice in decisions affecting San Martin. Members were appointed by the Board of Supervisors to review interim land use policies, the San Martin Water Quality Study, and to make recommendation to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors on land use matters of interest to the San Martin Community.

Special care was taken to protect these unique rural agricultural areas, rich in important resources, agriculture, mineral deposits, forests, and wildlife. Two years later the Board adopted ‘Special Area Plans’ to its General Plan. These policies limited overall growth and development in rural areas limiting them to non-urban low-density uses that supported the needs of the local community. The Plan sought to minimize the demand for public services (i.e. roads, Sheriff, postal, crime, graffiti control, etc.) and the cost to the general public for providing and maintaining these undeveloped rural areas.

In 2006, the South Valley Islamic Center proposed to build Cordoba Center (Cordoba) in the San Martin planning area. In 2011 Cordoba’s project description proposed a 5,000 sq. ft. mosque, 5,000 sq. ft. multipurpose hall, 1-2 covered patios for group picnic, bathrooms for picnic/retreat area.

The tight knit community of San Martin rallied together rejecting the project. They commented at numerous public meetings how the project was too large; unsustainable environmentally; uncharacteristic to San Martin; and that it violated the longtime ‘Local-Serving’ ordinances implemented decades earlier. Traditional Muslim beliefs forbid non-Muslims from being buried in their cemeteries and since less than 1/10th of 1% of the local residents are Muslim, Cordoba wasn’t considered to be of a ‘Local-Serving’ nature to the community.

Cordoba’s documents were scrutinized. Previous owners of Cordoba’s parcels had abandoned building permits due to failed percolation tests. Decades of observations by residents attested to flooding on the property and reported reverse direction of water flow, contradicting reports in Cordoba’s documents.

Cordoba’s application was on the heels of the San Martin perchlorate contamination. The Olin Corp. had improperly dumped toxic chemicals into the soil polluting hundreds of San Martin wells, forcing residents to rely on bottled water for years, some still doing so. This made the safety of the residents’ drinking water a priority when questioning Cordoba’s septic system and proposed ‘green’ cemetery. Almost all of San Martin residents rely on well water as their only source of drinking water. With no city water company or piped in water available, understandably, water is a major concern.

Muslim custom is to bury their dead directly into the ground without caskets or embalming. “Green” or natural cemeteries started popping up in the U.S. in 2007. A fairly recent addition, and with all neighboring entities to current green cemeteries having piped in city water available to them, there aren’t any studies on the effects of green burials (i.e, decaying bodies directly exposed to the soil) on nearby wells. Understandably, San Martin residents, demanded studies showing Cordoba’s proposed cemetery would be safe to their drinking water. To date, no studies have been provided.

In 2012, the County somehow excused Cordoba from obtaining an Environmental Impact Report (E.I.R.), allowing them to go forward with only a Mitigated Negative Declaration. A Negative Declaration is a document that states upon completion of an initial study that there is no substantial evidence that the project may have a significant effect on the environment. In contrast, an E.I.R. is an informational document that informs the public agency/public of significant environmental effects of a project, possible ways to minimize them and reasonable alternatives.

Local residents, noting the County’s willful desertion of its duty to protect and enforce the ordinances enacted to preserve their ‘Special Area’, filed a lawsuit against the County and Cordoba. The lawsuit resulted in Cordoba withdrawing its application, and executing a settlement agreement mandating it obtain an E.I.R. if they refiled.

Cordoba, apparently not willing to build anywhere else; i.e. in an urban area of the County devoid of numerous ‘Special Area’ ordinances or other restrictions on noise, traffic, septic, building design, etc., instead threatened to sue the County for violating federal RLUIPA law (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act). In 2000, Congress unanimously passed RLIUPA to prevent governments from placing an excessive burden on religious organizations in zoning and land marking laws. RLUIPA ensures religious institutions must be treated as well as comparable secular institutions. (Note that the County website for the proposed zoning changes includes a link to RLUIPA.)

County Planning Staff was asked to identify the substantial burden that was placed on Cordoba. Staffs’ response was “This language (i.e. Local Serving) may impose a burden on the practice of religion for uses that are subject to the ‘Local Serving’ policies.”

“May” impose? The ordinances in question have existed for over three decades since the 1980 General Plan. They have been applied equally to every applicant, religious and non-religious.

The sudden changes to remove language that “may” violate RLUIPA but definitely will disenfranchise an entire community poses the question: What is motivating such radical changes to accommodate this one project? 

Let’s follow the money. According to a document submitted to County Planning by South Valley Islamic Center “The cost of the proposed Cordoba Center project will be 100% paid for through a combination of donations by the SVIC membership and a generous grant from the Islamic Society of North America.”

Dr. Michael Waller, Annenberg Professor of International Communication at the Institute of World Politics and expert on the political warfare of terrorist groups, testified before the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security on October 14, 2003. Dr. Waller stated “An organ of ISNA, the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) has physical control of most mosques in the United States. NAIT finances, owns, and otherwise subsidizes the construction of mosques and is reported to own between 50 and 79 percent of the mosques on the North American continent.”

(NAIT) was founded in 1973 by the Muslim Students’ Association of the United States and Canada (MSA) and backed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Both NAIT and ISNA were named unindicted co-conspirators in the 2007-2008 Holy Land Foundation trial.

At trial, the evidence showed ISNA diverted funds from the accounts it held with NAIT to institutions linked to Hamas and to Mousa Abu Marzook, (a Hamas leader). Other evidence presented “established that ISNA and NAIT were among those organizations created by the U.S.-Muslim Brotherhood.” Prosecutors presented copies of checks made out for hundreds of thousands of dollars and drawn from ISNA’s account and deposited in the Holy Land Foundation’s account with NAIT made payable to “the Palestinian Mujahadeen,” the original name for Hamas’ military wing.

Now that we’ve established this isn’t just your local religious organization desiring to build a little mosque in small town San Martin, but instead a once proposed project of 8,250 sq. ft. that has transformed into a 105,456 sq. ft. monstrosity funded by unindicted co-conspirators of terrorism, ISNA and NAIT, and friends of the Muslim Brotherhood. (see chart below)


Religious Prayer Hall (Mosque 5,000 sq. ft.)

Mosque Two Story 8,938 sq. ft.
(+ 3,938 sq. ft.)
Multi-purpose Hall (5,000 sq. ft.)
(revised 8-2-12 to 2,800 sq. ft.)
Community Bldg: Two story 14,548 sq. ft.
(+ 11,748 sq. ft.)
1-2 covered patios Plaza: 15,000 sq. ft.
Bathrooms for the picnic area
(revised 8-2-12 to 2 bldgs. Total = 450 sq. ft.)
Outdoor bathhouses: two (2) @ 390 sq. ft. ea (+330 sq. ft.)
Cemetery: 2-acre Cemetery: 3.55 acre (4,260 graves)
Parking Lot:
(revised 8-2-12 total of 41 spaces)
Parking Lot: 90 spaces
(+ 50 spaces)

Maintenance Bldg: 2,454 sq. ft.

Caretaker’s Dwelling: 3,380 sq. ft. single-family dwelling

Youth Camp: 16,500 sq. ft. (0.38 acre)

Playfield and Playground 20,520 sq. ft.

Orchard: 0.6-acre area 26,136 sq. ft.

Total = 8,250 sq. ft. Total = 105,456 sq. ft. (+97,456 sq. ft.)

At the October 4, 2016 Board of Supervisors’ meeting, the Board postponed voting to adopt the one-year status report relating to implementation of the local-serving amendments, sending them back to Planning Staff for additional work. Residents presented the Board with a petition containing 474 signatures once again opposing the Local-Serving changes.

Unlike most local neighborhood churches, ‘Cordoba’ by its own admission, restricts participation in most of its activities to Muslims. Non-Muslims are restricted from burial in Cordoba’s proposed cemetery. How ironic is it that ‘Cordoba’ demands the community comply with its restrictions on limited use of its facilities, yet as it bulldozes its way into the small rural village of San Martin, ‘Cordoba’ demands the County and its residents abolish the decades-long existing ordinances limiting growth & development to the needs of the local community in order to accommodate ‘Cordoba?’

The proposed changes to the Local-Serving Ordinances accommodate one project, Cordoba. The ramifications, however, affect an entire community and the entire unincorporated area of Santa Clara County. The once protected area of San Martin, where families relied on ‘Special Plans’ and ordinances to preserve the investments they made generations ago are now gone. Their agricultural country style of living off the land in an undeveloped quiet rural area is gone because of one project, Cordoba. Cordoba abolished local-serving zoning ordinances and at the same time abolished an entire community’s lifestyle. It’s no wonder that according to a recent study at Chapman University that almost half of the respondents said they would be uncomfortable with a mosque being built in their neighborhood.

Georgine Scott-Codiga

Source: http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/10/mosque_uses_lawsuit_to_abolish_zoning_power_of_small_california_community.html

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1 comment:

Hy Finegold said...

The law that was written was poorly worded----not concise and specific, instead trying to cover a lot of ground with general wording, it needs to be clear and specific. This is evidence of the poor quality of law instruction rampant in the US. An excess of words, seems to be the goal; not clear 'tight' sentences.

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