Over the objections of neighboring homeowners, the Costa Mesa City Council Tuesday granted a Target store permission to stay open an extra hour until 11 p.m., six nights per week.

Target asked for the change not long after it was caught violating city requirements last November by staying open late.

Company officials admitted to staying open until 11 p.m. for a year and a half, despite what neighbors say were promises to close at 10 p.m. The big-box retailer was fined $150.

The store was also fined $500 in November for opening at midnight for Black Friday, another violation. Despite a 30-day deadline, Target hadn’t paid either fine as of early February, according to an email from the city to a neighbor.

The council decided on a 3-2 vote to grant the later hours, with Councilman Steve Mensinger and Councilwoman Wendy Leece opposing. On a suggestion from Mayor Eric Bever, the approval also required Target to close its north entrance — the one closest to the homes — at 9 p.m. each night.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, who supported the extended hours, was eager to move beyond the matter.

“I don’t want to hear about this store again,” he said. “I don’t want to know about this issue again. Times have changed, business has changed. These hours are important.”

But to several homeowners, the issue came down to holding Target accountable for its violations and protecting the interests of neighbors.

“We’re rewarding the people who break the law,” Al Morelli, who owns two homes next to the store, told the council. “I care about my neighborhood. I care about my property rights.”

Residents say the original requirements for a 10 p.m. closing time, which were instituted in 2000, were the result of hard-fought negotiations with Target.

“There is ambient noise from a retail parking lot of that size, and to suggest there isn’t is unrealistic and misleading,” said LouAnne McCormick, whose home shares a backyard wall with Target’s parking lot. “It’s not our job to continuously defend the peaceful enjoyment of our homes from Target’s ongoing campaign for longer hours of operation.”

Target officials asserted that the company didn’t agree to anything with neighbors when the project was first approved. Company representatives also told the city that the extra hour would bring tens of thousands of dollars in additional income to their employees each year and more donations to local schools.

“It’s not just about money. I’ll tell you that personally and honestly,” said Jacqui Lurner, a district manager for Target.

Another Target manager from a Santa Ana store pointed out the several red-shirted Target employees in the audience.

“I just wanted to quickly just remind you guys that this is a big deal for our team members,” the manager said. “They’ve taken their night out to come here and be in the audience just to remind you guys that these hours are important to them.”

Mensinger, however, said Target seriously erred by not reaching out to neighbors door to door.

“One of the basic concepts in real estate development is you have to touch and feel and talk to the people surrounding you,” said Mensinger. “There are people [who] live next door to this store, and they also have some inherent rights.”


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