Guru Nanak Sikh Society v. County of Sutter, No. CV.S-02-1785 LKK/GGH.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
Writing for the CourtKarlton
Citation326 F.Supp.2d 1140
PartiesGURU NANAK SIKH SOCIETY OF YUBA CITY, a California non-profit corporation, Plaintiff, v. COUNTY OF SUTTER, et al., Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. CV.S-02-1785 LKK/GGH.
Decision Date19 November 2003

Page 1140

326 F.Supp.2d 1140
GURU NANAK SIKH SOCIETY OF YUBA CITY, a California non-profit corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF SUTTER, et al., Defendants.
No. CV.S-02-1785 LKK/GGH.
United States District Court, E.D. California.
November 19, 2003.

Page 1141

Michael R Barretter, Law Office of Michael R Barretter, Yuba City, CA, for plaintiff.

Jeffrey Thomas Melching, Rutan and Tucker, Costa Mesa, CA, for defendants.

ORDER

KARLTON, Senior District Judge.


Plaintiff, a Sikh religious organization, brings this action challenging county officials' denial of its application for a use permit to build a temple on its land, alleging violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) and the U.S. Constitution. This matter comes before the court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. I decide the motions on the basis of the papers and pleadings filed herein, and after oral argument.

Page 1142

I.
UNDISPUTED FACTS

Plaintiff Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Yuba City (GNSSYC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering the teachings and practices of the Sikh religion. This action concerns a parcel of property that plaintiff owns in Yuba City, and on which plaintiff has sought to build a Sikh temple, or gurudwara. Plaintiff brings suit against the County of Sutter and its Board of Supervisors, as well as Casey Kroon, Dennis Nelson, Larry Munger and Dan Silva, each sued in their official capacities as members of the Sutter County Board of Supervisors, alleging various constitutional and statutory violations in connection with the County's denial of plaintiff's application for a conditional use permit for building the temple.

A. THE GROVE ROAD PROPERTY

On April 4, 2001, plaintiff attempted to obtain a conditional use permit for the construction of a Sikh temple on its 1.89 acre property on Grove Road in Yuba City. The proposed use included a 2,000 square foot assembly area, 1,550 square feet dedicated to restrooms, storage and an entryway, an additional 1,500 square feet dedicated as a dining area and conversion of an existing building to be used as a commercial kitchen for temple activities. The proposed temple site would hold religious ceremonies for no more than 75 people at a time. The property was in an area designated for residential use, primarily for large lot single family residences; in such areas, churches and temples are only conditionally permitted.

The Sutter County Community Services Department issued a report recommending that the County Planning Commission grant the conditional use permit. The report indicated that while the permit presented potential conflicts with established residences in the area, the conflicts could be minimized by specifically recommended conditions which would be consistent with the general plan. At a public meeting on April 4, 2001, however, the County Planning Commission voted unanimously to reject the conditional use permit. The rejection was apparently based on citizen objections concerning noise and traffic that was feared would interfere with the existing residential neighborhood. Following the Commission's denial, plaintiff began searching for a different parcel of property for the proposed temple.

B. THE SUBJECT PROPERTY

In 2002, plaintiff acquired the subject property, a 28.79 acre parcel located at 1298 South George Washington Boulevard in an unincorporated area of the County, for the purposes of building a temple there (AR 1-2).1 The site has an "AG-20" (agricultural land, 20-acre minimum lot size) designation on the Sutter County General Plan and is zoned "AG" (general agricultural district) in the Sutter County Zoning Code (AR 472). The parcel includes a walnut orchard and an existing 2,300

Page 1143

square foot single family residence, which the plaintiff proposed to convert into a Sikh temple by increasing the size of the building to approximately 2,800 square feet (AR 2). All of the surrounding properties, which have identical General Plan and zoning designations, are also improved with orchards (AR 27).

On January 9, 2002, plaintiff filed application number 02-01 for a conditional use permit to build a temple on the proposed site. The proposed use of the property was for a Sikh temple, assembly hall, worship services, and weddings. As before, the proposed facility was to accommodate religious services for no more than 75 people at any given time. Plaintiff also proposed to erase the lot line between the residential and the agricultural parcel so as to create one parcel (AR 1-17).

It was initially determined that the application was incomplete (AR 20-21). Plaintiff accordingly submitted additional documentation to complete the application (AR 27-32), and the project was then circulated to various Sutter County departments, departments of the City of Yuba City, and state agencies (AR 33-34). Various proposals and comments were received from those agencies (AR 36-49).

The County Community Services Department again recommended approval of plaintiff's application for a conditional use permit, including, however, certain mitigation measures to alleviate environmental concerns (AR-101). The Department's staff determined that the proposed use should be found to be consistent with the general plan. The Department's staff report states:

Staff believes that due to the maximum attendance of 75 people at the temple, the minimal building modification necessary to accommodate the use, and with the requirement for the buffer along the north property line and the other mitigation measures and conditions of approval required, the proposed temple use will not conflict with existing adjacent agricultural uses. Staff believes the proposal is consistent with the general plan. Staff also believes that the proposed use will not be detrimental to the health, safety, and general welfare of persons residing or working in the neighborhood of the proposed use, or be detrimental or injurious to property and improvements in the neighborhood or to the general welfare of the county. [¶] Based on the use being consistent with the general plan and with the recommended mitigation measures and conditions of approval attached to the staff report required, staff believes the required findings can be made. Staff therefore recommends approval of Use Permit # 02-01, subject to the attached findings, mitigation measures, and conditions of approval.

(AR 106).

On April 3, 2002, the County Planning Commission held a public meeting to consider plaintiff's permit application. Sukh Singh, a member of the Guru Nanak Sikh Society, spoke on behalf of the application. Mr. Singh observed that the previous use permit had been denied on a 1.9 acre piece of land that was adjoining a neighborhood. He observed that this 28.8 acre piece of land did not border anyone's front or back yard, and indicated that the applicant was willing to accept all conditions and mitigation measures that had been recommended by the County Planning Department (AR 210). In their objections to the proposed temple, most of the opponents of the proposal cited increased traffic, conflict with agriculture and decreased property values as the reasons they did not wish to see the temple built in the proposed area (Geneal Chima AR 215-216; Michael Gibson AR 216; Thorban J. Sellers AR 217; David

Page 1144

Rai AR 218; Rebecca Chima AR 218). After hearing the testimony and evidence, the County Planning Commission approved the application for a use permit, subject to the mitigating conditions, by a vote of 4-3 (AR 228).

On April 5, 2002 Michael and Catherine Gibson appealed the decision of the Sutter County Planning Commission to the Sutter County Board of Supervisors. David Rai, Rebecca Chima and Geneal Chima filed a separate appeal (AR 237-248). The appeal hearing was scheduled for May 21, 2002 before the Sutter County Board of Supervisors (AR 390).

On May 10, 2002, the County Community Services Department submitted another staff report, recommending that the Board of Supervisors deny the appeal and uphold the decision of the Planning Commission to approve the permit. The recommendation was based on the Department's determination that the proposed use was consistent with the general plan and that the recommended conditions would mitigate any adverse impact on surrounding property owners.

In this report, the staff focused on addressing those issues that were raised at the Planning Commission meeting by those opposed to the project. As to impact on existing agricultural operations in the area, staff noted that a letter was received from the Sutter County Agricultural Commissioner on the date of the commission hearing which referenced concerns that the proposal may impact farmers' use of pesticides and fumigants on their crops. Staff met with the Agricultural Commissioner in an effort to address these potential impacts. Staff then added a further condition which would require a 100-foot "no development buffer" along the north, east, and south sides of the subject property. Within that buffer, no buildings related to temple use would be allowed to be constructed. This 100-foot buffer would minimize pesticides spray drift and allow farmers on adjacent parcels to apply pesticides up to the property lines of the subject parcels. Implementation of the restriction meant that farmers would be able to continue to apply pesticides to their entire crop and not face an economic loss from being prohibited from spraying close to the property line. The site plan submitted indicates that the existing residence to be converted to the temple was located outside the buffer zone at 105 feet from the north property line. Staff further noted that fumigation of agricultural parcels is necessary every 10-15 years when replacing an orchard after its economic life has been exhausted. Fumigation requires a greater separation distance of people from the area of application than pesticide spraying. Staff...

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27 practice notes
  • Church of Scientology of Ga., Inc. v. City of Sandy Springs, Ga., No. 1:10–CV–00082–AT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • February 10, 2012
    ...(W.D.Mich.2005), rev'd on other grounds,258 Fed.Appx. 729 (6th Cir.2007); Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Yuba City v. County of Sutter, 326 F.Supp.2d 1140, 1160 n. 10 (E.D.Cal.2003), aff'd,456 F.3d 978 (9th Cir.2006). 21. The parties in Lighthouse Community Church of God raised strikingly simil......
  • Smith v. Allen, No. 05-16010.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • October 2, 2007
    ...monetary relief. See Shidler v. Moore, 409 F.Supp.2d 1060, 1067 (N.D.Ind.2006); Guru Nanak Sikh Soc. of Yuba City v. County of Sutter, 326 F.Supp.2d 1140, 1161-62 (E.D.Cal.2003); see also Chase v. City of Portsmouth, No. 2:05CV446, 2005 WL 3079065, at *5 (E.D.Va. Nov. 16, 2005) ("Appropriat......
  • National Ass'n of Optometrists & Optic. v. Lockyer, No. CIV. S-02-1464 LKK/DAD.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • December 6, 2006
    ...are well known, and have been discussed at length by this court elsewhere. See, e.g., Guru Nanak Sikh Society v. County of Sutter, 326 F.Supp.2d 1140, 1147 (E.D.Cal.2003). As a concession to both the shortness of life and the length of this opinion, the court will not repeat that 7. See als......
  • Kindred v. Cal. Dep't of Mental Health, 1:08-cv-01321-AWI-GSA-PC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • July 11, 2011
    ...were not entitled to qualified immunity regarding a Kosher food claim); and Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Yuba City v. County of Sutter, 326 F. Supp.2d 1140, 1162 (E.D.Cal. 2003) (court noted that the recovery of damages under RLUIPA is an open question and only granted plaintiff nominal damag......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • Church of Scientology of Ga., Inc. v. City of Sandy Springs, Ga., No. 1:10–CV–00082–AT.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • February 10, 2012
    ...(W.D.Mich.2005), rev'd on other grounds,258 Fed.Appx. 729 (6th Cir.2007); Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Yuba City v. County of Sutter, 326 F.Supp.2d 1140, 1160 n. 10 (E.D.Cal.2003), aff'd,456 F.3d 978 (9th Cir.2006). 21. The parties in Lighthouse Community Church of God raised strikingly simil......
  • Smith v. Allen, No. 05-16010.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
    • October 2, 2007
    ...monetary relief. See Shidler v. Moore, 409 F.Supp.2d 1060, 1067 (N.D.Ind.2006); Guru Nanak Sikh Soc. of Yuba City v. County of Sutter, 326 F.Supp.2d 1140, 1161-62 (E.D.Cal.2003); see also Chase v. City of Portsmouth, No. 2:05CV446, 2005 WL 3079065, at *5 (E.D.Va. Nov. 16, 2005) ("Appropriat......
  • National Ass'n of Optometrists & Optic. v. Lockyer, No. CIV. S-02-1464 LKK/DAD.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • December 6, 2006
    ...are well known, and have been discussed at length by this court elsewhere. See, e.g., Guru Nanak Sikh Society v. County of Sutter, 326 F.Supp.2d 1140, 1147 (E.D.Cal.2003). As a concession to both the shortness of life and the length of this opinion, the court will not repeat that 7. See als......
  • Kindred v. Cal. Dep't of Mental Health, 1:08-cv-01321-AWI-GSA-PC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • July 11, 2011
    ...were not entitled to qualified immunity regarding a Kosher food claim); and Guru Nanak Sikh Society of Yuba City v. County of Sutter, 326 F. Supp.2d 1140, 1162 (E.D.Cal. 2003) (court noted that the recovery of damages under RLUIPA is an open question and only granted plaintiff nominal damag......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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