Rules and regulations

A “preservation” group that claimed to represent a neighborhood in Thousand Oaks, California, has lost its bid to prevent a church from renting a facility that formerly was used by a YMCA.

The Dos Vientos Community Preservation Association still has a chance to revive its fight against the city’s decision to allow Godspeak Calvary Chapel Church to rent the old YMCA, but the church’s defenders say they would submit another motion to dismiss to the court if they do.

Liberty Counsel has been defending the church in Ventura County Superior Court, where a ruling this week dismissed the association’s concerns.

“The association is fine with having a YMCA rent the facility, but objects to a church renting the same facility. Such biased discrimination is often referred to as ‘Not in my back yard,'” Liberty Counsel explained.

A foundation bought the building when the YMCA closed down and then agreed to rent it to the church.

“The city of Thousand Oaks supports the use of the facility by the church. However, the neighborhood association filed suit objecting to the church. The association claims that the facility should be used for a YMCA, not a church,” Liberty Counsel said.

“The association wants to prevent the church from using the facility, stating that the use has not been cleared under the California Environmental Quality Act. The city and Liberty Counsel argue CEQA does not apply, and, at any rate, any discrimination against the church use violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which requires that religious organizations receive equal treatment as do other organizations in government zoning decisions.”

Liberty Counsel explained that the foundation obtained all the needed permits, and the city determined no new environmental review was needed.

The association’s most recent filing complained about “groundborne vibrations” and “noise.”

Liberty Counsel pointed out that, ironically, within a stone’s throw of the church is a Chabad synagogue, which has generated no objections from the community association.

“The association does not represent the neighborhood and is not a neighborhood association,” Liberty Counsel said. “Only a handful of people are behind the association who are adamantly opposed to a Christian church in the area.”

Technically, the plaintiffs failed to complete the court’s procedural requirements, so the complaint was dismissed. They have until Oct. 17 to refile, and if they do, “Liberty Counsel will review it and will likely file another motion to dismiss.”

“We are pleased that the Ventura County Superior Court dismissed this frivolous lawsuit against a Christian church,” said Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel.

“It is a violation of the law when the association welcomes a YMCA but refuses a church.”

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