The city was hit with two lawsuits this week, both alleging that the City Council wrongfully approved building projects without properly assessing the environmental effects.
A newly formed group called the Citizens of Orange Park Acres Coalition is suing to stop the expansion of Salem Lutheran Church & School in their semi-rural equestrian community.
The other suit was filed by the Old Towne Preservation Assn., which alleges that plans for a major renovation of the downtown plaza were passed without considering all the ramifications.
City Atty. David De Berry said he will meet with the preservationists Tuesday to discuss their concerns. “OTPA is a very active and beneficial organization,” he said. “I hope we can work together and not be suing each other.”
In May, the city approved a $500,000 rehabilitation of the downtown plaza around the city’s traffic circle. Plans include replacing the pine trees with palms and renovating the small park in the center of the circle. A new street-lighting plan for Old Towne also is being challenged.
While the city is the primary defendant in that suit, the case filed by COPA, the Orange Park Acres residents, will largely target the church-run school on Frank Lane.
In that case, neighbors who had waged a bitter battle against an expansion of the school contend that the city should have required a full environmental impact report.
Newport Beach attorney Marlena A. Fox said the group is asking the court to set aside the June approval of the project, which involves a new two-story classroom building and a multipurpose parish center on the 5.2-acre campus.
Church leaders said they are disappointed by the suit but believe they will prevail.
“We really believe this is God’s project and He is faithful to His people,” Pastor Paul Meyer said.
COPA co-founder Mara Brandman said the issue is not about religion.
“We love that church,” she said. “What we are against is the improper use of that land.”