A small Lake Forest church in the back of a strip mall has until Dec. 13 to prove it can operate without upsetting nearby residents, who claim the congregation is noisy and intrusive.
The local branch of Iglesia Pentecostal Unida Latinoamericana, or IPUL Lake Forest—which meets in a storefront in the Forest Ridge shopping center at Muirlands Boulevard and Ridge Route Drive—is currently seeking an operating permit from the city and is taking heat from neighbors bothered by its late-night activities and services.
IPUL alleges multiple angry voicemails have been left by neighbors for its pastor, German Camacho.
In one, the church alleges the caller calls the congregants Latinos and "illegals," and says he wants them out of the neighborhood and country.
The Planning Commission preliminarily denied the church an operating permit after hearing complaints from residents living near Forest Ridge, who said the church's nighttime services brought noise, trash and children playing in the streets to the area.
But at a subsequent commission meeting church representatives said the noise bothering nearby residents came from other churches that had been operating alongside IPUL before the city discovered they were operating without the required permit.
Church treasurer Jorge Turbay in September told the Planning Commission that any disturbances were from other churches previously meeting in the same area.
The church's behavior is "impecable," he said. He promised the congregation would remain in compliance with the city's regulations.
"We will do everything possible to make everyone happy," Turbay said.
At the same meeting, Lake Forest residents Alex and Gracie Duran accused the church of duplicity, saying its representatives blame their own actions on the churches that previously operated in Forest Ridge.
In a letter to the the city's Planning Commission, the residents say children also contribute to the noise from the church's late-night activities because they're allowed to play outside. They claim the church at one point operated an "illegal day care center."
Ken Piotter, another area resident, told commissioners in September he has been calling police about code violations occuring at Forest Ridge churches for decades.
Piotter rebutted the church's claim that nearby businesses have not complained about IPUL's presence, alleging that a martial arts instructor left the shopping center as a result of the late-night activity in 2005.
The commission will revisit IPUL Lake Forest's permit request at its Dec. 13 meeting.