San Diego says Blackwater missed target on paperwork
Union Tribune (2008-05-29) Ray Huard
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By Ray Huard
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
6:24 p.m. May 29, 2008
SAN DIEGO – Blackwater Worldwide failed to apply for the proper permits to run a training program for the Navy in Otay Mesa, San Diego city lawyers said in papers filed in federal court Thursday.
The North Carolina-based company never sought the permits needed to turn an entire warehouse on Siempre Viva Road into a vocational school, deputy city attorneys Donald Mc Grath
and Walter C. Chung said in papers filed in U.S. District Court.
City lawyers asked Judge Marilyn L. Huff to reject a motion by Blackwater officials seeking a temporary restraining order that would allow them to begin operating the training center Monday.
They said that permit requests filed by Blackwater only covered a portion of the more than 60,000-square-foot warehouse. Original plans included in the requested permits also did not include a ship simulator, the lawyers said.
Blackwater officials were told in April by the city's chief building official that they needed a change of occupancy permit that would cover the entire building and allow training because existing permits allowed only for warehouse use, the lawyers said.
Blackwater's attorney, Michael Neil, said the city's arguments are “absolute nonsense” and that the entire area is zoned for a vocational school.
Neil said Blackwater never filed for a change of occupancy permit because none was needed.
“You don't have to ask for a permit for something that's permitted by zoning laws and the zoning laws permit a vocational training instutiton in that zone, that's the way its zoned,” Neil said.
Blackwater officials in filing for the temporary restraining order Tuesday said their contract with the Navy requires them to open the training center by Monday. But city officials last week halted certification of final permits until the matter can be reviewed by the City Council and the Planning Commission.
On Friday, Blackwater officials filed a federal lawsuit arguing that city clerks and inspectors had signed off on permits to convert the warehouse into classrooms and a firing range.
City lawyers in court documents also said that Blackwater had erred in bringing its complaint to federal court without first seeking redress in state court.
Neil said Blackwater filed in federal court because “there are federal issues here and it also involved the United States Navy.”