Tags: Church | Fights | Government | Seizure | Land | for | Shopping

Church Fights Government Seizure of Land for Shopping Center

Thursday, 30 May 2002 12:00 AM

Church officials had wanted to relocate their parish from their site in Los Alamitos to the 18 acres in Cypress, but Tuesday night the Cypress redevelopment agency voted 4-0 to invoke its power of eminent domain and obtain the land.

Unless the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California says otherwise, the 4,000 members of Cottonwood Christian Center will be forced to sell their 18 acres to the city and find another place to build a church campus.

Jon Curtis, the attorney representing Cottonwood, said the city was in violation of laws under the U.S. Constitution, the California Constitution, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and redevelopment laws.

"Cottonwood currently has existing litigation against the city for basically their discriminatory and wrongful acts," Curtis said. "Cottonwood will certainly vigorously oppose the city forcibly taking their land."

Curtis added that RLUIPA was designed to protect churches from actions such as the one Cypress officials decided to take.

"Throwing out a church for a retail use solely because of sales tax and property taxes that would be accumulated is ... discriminating against the religious organization," he said.

David Belmer, community development director for the city of Cypress, said the city's actions were in the best interest of the community.

"They have a fiduciary responsibility to manage the city such that it has sufficient revenues to provide the services our residents have come to expect," Belmer said.

"The recognition of this piece of property is in our strategic redevelopment area and its development for commercial enterprising uses is key or critical to the successful build-up of our project area," he said.

Belmer said Tuesday's vote did not mean eminent domain would be used more frequently against churches.

"Does this action threaten every church in Cypress? Absolutely not," Belmer said. "Does this action mean there is going to be some rampant move to condemn church property throughout our city, the state and the country? I'm hoping that most reasonable people will find that idea farfetched.

"This was a strategic piece of property in a key project area in our city, and our interest predates Cottonwood's interest," he said. "That's our story, and we're sticking to it."

The Rev. Mike Wilson, a spokesman for Cottonwood, said the religious community's rights were being violated.

"They all said we have to do this for the good of the city for tax dollars," Wilson said. "It is just not right to violate the rights of a minority of people, or it's not right to violate the rights of a few people for the benefit of a greater number of people.

"That is basically what they are doing. They are violating our rights because they want tax dollars," he said.

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Church officials had wanted to relocate their parish from their site in Los Alamitos to the 18 acres in Cypress, but Tuesday night the Cypress redevelopment agency voted 4-0 to invoke its power of eminent domain and obtain the land. Unless the U.S. District Court for the...
Church,Fights,Government,Seizure,Land,for,Shopping,Center
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2002-00-30
Thursday, 30 May 2002 12:00 AM
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