Property in Westminster focus of closed session for Huntington

A group of Muslims is looking to build a mosque on a piece of land owned by Huntington Beach that sits outside the city's jurisdictions. But building the mosque there might be difficult.

The City Council reviewed bids, including one that Westminster entered after the Muslim group submitted its bids, on land Huntington owns in Westminster.

The council and staff addressed prices and terms during their closed-session meeting Monday for two bids submitted for the 1.1-acre parcel the city has owned for more than 20 years, said Economic Development Director Stanley Smalewitz.

Huntington Beach wants $600,000, Mayor Joe Carchio said.

Al-Noor Charitable Foundation, which is made up of Muslims from Huntington Beach, Westminster and Fountain Valley, was the only organization that made an offer during the bidding process.

The group wants to build a mosque there, said Ron Abdel Fattah, who is an Al-Noor member.

The city of Westminster placed a bid after the bidding process had ended, Councilman Don Hansen and Abdel Fattah said.

"They came in after the bidding process with a different proposal, but it wasn't a formal bid and we haven't taken any action yet," Hansen said.

Abdel Fattah said Huntington Beach should not allow Westminster to make an offer at the eleventh hour.

He said someone from Huntington Beach told him Westminster doesn't want a mosque there. Calls to Westminster's staff and mayor were not returned Tuesday.

Huntington Beach City Atty. Jennifer McGrath said Westminster falls under different rules, and that is why it was allowed to enter a bid after the window had closed.

The council plans to address this issue again at its next meeting, McGrath said.

The Muslim community is outgrowing the Al-Noor Foundation location at 16551 Brookhurst St., Abdel Fattah said.

The foundation wants to build a state-of-the-art Islamic center that would include a community center, a small school and a prayer hall, he said.

Huntington bought the Westminster property on the north side of McFadden Avenue, east of Gothard Street, from Southern Pacific Railroads in 1987, along with 2.7 acres where the proposed Vans skate park is expected to be built, Smalewitz said.

"Even if we wanted to do something, we wouldn't get any benefit from it," he said. "We wouldn't get property taxes or sales taxes. It just sat there. I looked at our inventory and recommended we go out and sell it."

He doesn't know why the city bought land outside its borders, but said it might have been a case where Pacific Railroads was not willing to sell the parcels separately.

The city doesn't own any other properties outside of its jurisdictions, Smalewitz said.

"If there were more, I'd want to know why," he said.

The city offered the property to neighboring agencies, including the city of Westminster and the Orange County Transportation Authority, he said.

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