Courts & Law

Lawsuit filed to block apartment complex

A LAWSUIT has been filed to block construction of a controversial apartment complex in Westminster.

By Jim Tortolano

A lawsuit to block the construction of a controversial apartment complex has been filed against the City of Westminster, the city council and the developers of the project.

The petition for a writ of mandate and complaint requesting an injunction was filed in Orange County Superior Court on Oct. 31 by attorney Mitchell Tsai on behalf of Residents of Westminster, identified as a non-profit public benefit corporation. No hearing date has been set.

At issue is the decision in September by the city council to approve a proposed development of a 24-unit project in the 13800 block of Milton Avenue on a 1.01-acre site.

The council had originally voted to reject the project on Sept. 5, but changed its mind on Sept. 19 and gave its approval with Mayor Tri Ta, Vice Mayor Tyler Diep and Councilmember Kimberly Ho in support.

It was Ho’s change of heart that altered the outcome. While the city zoning code permits only 18 units on the site, state law allows a developer to get a high-density bonus of more apartments if some are rented to tenants at low- or very-low income rates.

“I don’t like the law,” she said at the time, but argued that the city had to follow the state’s mandate.

The public hearing that preceded the vote that night took several hours and included objections from residents about potential parking, traffic and environmental issues.

According to the suit, the council’s decision violated state law and city land use ordinances and that the project was not eligible for exemption from environmental review.

Assistant City Attorney Christian L. Bettenhausen, replying to an inquiry from The Tribune, said “At this point the city doesn’t have any comment on the lawsuit. The complaint was only served a few days ago, so we are still in the process of evaluating it.  But our expectation is that a responsive pleading will be filed in the next couple [of] weeks.”

Developers of the project are Christopher Albers Sr. and Jr.

The ROW organization is the creation of four residents, led by Dave Hester.

“Basically, we felt the city and the city council members failed to address our concerns that there were major problems with this project that affect our public health, environment and safety,” said Hester. “They forced us to file the lawsuit.  In addition, the data that the environmentalist, city planners and traffic engineers used for their research was clearly flawed.”



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