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City Sues Buddhist Temple for Violating Zoning Rules

April 24, 1994|DAVAN MAHARAJ and BERT ELJERA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

GARDEN GROVE — City Atty. John Shaw filed a lawsuit last week against a Buddhist temple that officials claim has been operating illegally in a residential neighborhood.

The lawsuit alleges that the temple--known as Bat Nha Meditation Institute at 12362 West St.--is a "public nuisance" and violates city zoning codes because "the large assemblages of people, the music, the noise and the traffic interfere with the reasonable enjoyment of the property of the neighbors."

Also named in the lawsuit, filed Monday in Orange County Superior Court, were temple officials the Rev. Thich Nguyen Tri and Que Dinh Pham.

Temple officials could not be reached for comment this week.

The lawsuit said the city first "brought this illegal use" to the attention of temple officials in October.

But instead of prosecuting temple officials, the city allowed them to apply for a conditional-use permit so that they could continue to use the site as a meditation center, the lawsuit states.

Temple officials never completed the required papers seeking permission, according to the lawsuit.

"Our principal concern is for the temple to stop operation immediately," Shaw said Thursday.

Councilman Mark Leyes that "we don't like to take religious institutions to court. But if they're not willing to comply with our codes, then really they leave us with no option."

Leyes said that the city is not trying to regulate religious practices but simply wants to control land uses, particularly in residential neighborhoods.

"There are safety issues (involved) like fire codes," he said.

City codes require a minimum of one acre for a religious building. The Bat Nha Meditation Institute does not meet that requirement, Leyes said.

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