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Embattled Church Under Deadline to Appease Neighbors

Iglesia Pentecostal Unida Latinoamericana has until Dec. 13 to prove it can coexist with nearby residents. Church says it has received angry messages from neighbors—including one that accuses congregants of being illegal immigrants.

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.

Sarah de Crescenzo October 04, 2012 at 04:09 AM
@Distressed Neighbor, thanks for sharing your perspective. It sounds like a lack of oversight by the landlord is playing a significant role in the conflict between the shopping center tenants and neighbors who live close by. Do you think this church asking to get officially permitted to operate should be allowed to do so?
Distressed Neighbor October 04, 2012 at 04:35 AM
No, I do not believe they should be allowed to operate a church in a retail center that has limited parking and close neighbors. They do not act like a church in the area of being friendly or doing the right thing. They do what they want, when they want without regard to their fellow neighbor or in this case ... neighbors. Their playing loud music and singing late at night keeping the local residence awake, trash and rocks being thrown into yards, and most of all a disregard for their own children playing in the back and side alley... nearly get hit by speeding teenagers. I have witnessed on many occasion their kids wander into random businesses and start playing or taking things. I have witnessed the business owners nicely saying something to the children then the paster/parents with no change in behavior. They should do the right thing and relocate to an area that is properly zoned for a church, that can handle the parking needs and the sanity of city neighbors. The city needs to get off their butts and take action. Plenty of zoning issues, building code violations, littering and other issues are just being ignored and no action taken.
Jim Gardner October 04, 2012 at 05:02 PM
As distressed neighbor points out, there are many problems with this shopping center in general and with this church in particular. Members of our HOA which abutts the shopping center have complained about the center and the church, to little avail. Compared to other shopping centers, this one looks pretty bad and does nothing to add to the neighborhood. As distressed noted some of the shops are "adult" oriented, to put it kindly, and the result is that the neighborhood has a high rate of sex and drug crimes. In fact we've had to ask Police services to intervene and they have been working with us for the past month. I'm not saying the Church contributes to the sex and drug crimes in the neighborhood, but the shopping center itself has been a contributor. This raises the question whether or not this is a good site for little children to be exposed to the "adult" world. The city certainly could take a more active role in working with the property owner to upgrade the center.
AGD October 11, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Battling a church is not a high prioirty unless you're impacted by noise, trash and people looking into your yard with are few items of interest. This church is very adversial and confrontational at best. While they claim they only want to spread the word of Jesus Christ, they have been disrespectful to the community at large. They have operated under the radar, with no signage of who they are, contrary to their mission statement. They ran illegal day care center as witnessed by neighbors.They had congreagation memebers living in the units, buildt without permits until they got caught by city officials. It is abundantly clear they isolate themselves in our community. They display a sort of reverse discrimination by not reaching out to a multi-cultural neighborhood. While pandering to the planning commission, they have made no attempt to solve any issues with the adjacent nieghborhood but rather claim racism over "one" neighbor. The city has policies against discrimantion and to imply that is un-godly of them. Based on the attempts to hide themselves in our community after several months, the planning commission comprehesively pointed out the infractions and violations they have committed, now they want to play the race card. They simply ignore the fact they are violating local laws and refuse to acknowledge they are not law abidding citizens within the community. The churchs actions don't coincide with their belief system and makes them very questionable as to their intent.
AGD October 11, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Simply ignoring facts is not a solution. Words verses actions are miles apart here in this case. While I encourage faith based solutions, their "good works" or lack of is becoming a pont of contention within our peaceful community. They can simply find a more accomodating location that benefits all, instead, they claim racism...wow...

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