“I’m a little stunned here that we have for months and months and months worked with our legal team, an expert legal team, and I am surprised,” City Councilwoman Dianne Fries said.
Although the city council approved the zoning request more than two years ago, on Dec. 15, 2009, the church filed a lawsuit because the city only approved 75 percent of the requested 44,000 square feet, citing a parking shortage.
“If the issue in this case is truly about parking, then we should be able to resolve it tonight,” church attorney Woody Galloway told the council at its June 19 meeting. “We have met every single requirement which you asked us to meet. There is no reasonable basis to deny this request.”
A new site plan was designed after U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg ordered the sides to mediation, which took place during a closed session March 26.
“The result will, if approved, resolve the litigation in its entirety,” city defense attorney Laurel Henderson said.
If deferred or denied, the litigation will go back to court.
“If the city wins, then Scientology is left with its 33,000-square-foot building that it can use and the underground parking has to stay the same. If Scientology wins, they can use the 44,000 square feet and not add another parking space,” Henderson said.
City Councilman Chip Collins said Henderson’s opinion of the downside of a delay, even if followed by approval, did not worry him.
“As a litigator, I know that cases move at glacial paces. Usually 15 or 30 days, in the grand scheme of things, does not matter. As far as our citizens having faith in the system, it increases that,” he said to applause from some of the 100 attendees.
Residents like Robin Beechey of the Willow Glen Condominium Association asked for more time to study the matter.
“There’s been no proper public notice of this hearing,” he said.