‘CALIPHORNIA’ – Opponents of a proposed Islamic Center in West Bakersfield have succeeded in delaying the project by forcing its supporters to complete a costly and complex Environmental Impact Report.
Bakersfield Californian After the Board of Supervisors meeting where the matter was considered, a project consultant charged that the opposition — which argued at one point that Muslims use a lot of water and would wake neighbors up early with their praying — was religious, not environmentally based.
Ignorance and bigotry seem to be the driving force in denying the applicants their rights,” said real estate broker Frank Tripicchio. “There is a concerted effort to generate negative public opinion against this project.” The most vocal opponent, Nora Weber, said she is only concerned about the water and sewer impacts of the project.
Ultimately, Kern County supervisors voted to send the project — at Driver Road and Stockdale Highway — back to planning staff and ordered completion of a detailed investigation into the project’s environmental impacts.
The Kern County Planning Department and Planning Commission had given the project a clean bill of environmental health last year. But opponents, led by a small group of homeowners on Buckaroo Court just north of the proposed school and mosque, appealed the decision. They submitted a list of specific concerns related to traffic, water and sewer use and a high pressure gas line that runs under the site.
County planners reversed their support. On Tuesday, Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt said the environmental document used to support the project was no longer adequate. County Counsel Theresa Goldner said an EIR will protect both the environment and the applicant from litigation by the Buckaroo Residents Group.
The Islamic Center of Bakersfield will now have to pay for a study that, Oviatt said, could cost in the neighborhood of $350,000.
Even though that outcome was clear, a small group of project opponents launched aggressive attacks against it during Tuesday’s meeting. Weber, a local insurance agent and Tea Party activist, called the project “nonsense” and said everyone who has had to spend time and money to fight it should be paid back by supporters.
She said the site is inadequate and the church and school will create huge impacts on the street, sewer and water systems in the area. It was how she delivered her comments that triggered Tripicchio’s ire.
Weber said the water supply for the project would be inadequate because Muslims follow washing rituals. “It’s just part of their procedure. Nothing wrong with it. But there is a lot of water use out there,” she said. She also said that Muslims pray very early in the morning, so neighbors’ sleep would be disturbed.