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Top Court to Hear Church Camp Plea

July 10, 1986|LARRY GORDON

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Glendale church that claims the Los Angeles County government has unlawfully deprived it of the use of its camp in Angeles National Forest.

The justices said last week that they will review state court rulings that threw out the First English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Glendale's lawsuit against the county. The church is seeking to overturn a county ordinance that sharply restricts any construction in the area of the 1978 Big Tujunga Canyon flood. The church's camp, called Lutherglen, was destroyed by that flood and the church wants to rebuild.

"We're elated," the church's pastor, the Rev. Kempton Segerhammar, said of the court decision.

Jerrold Fadem, attorney for the church, said the Supreme Court will try to use the case to resolve an issue it unsuccessfully set out to resolve four times in the last five years: whether property owners must be compensated when local governments place new restrictions on the use of their land.

The church's appeal said the county restriction amounts to a governmental "taking" of the property, which constitutionally requires the county government to pay "just compensation."

"It is a matter of great national interest," Fadem said, explaining that the Glendale case was chosen because it presents the issue "in a rather pure form."

Douglas Elwell, senior deputy county counsel, said the church's contention that it is banned from any construction at the camp "simply isn't true." He said the ordinance allows for some building, provided it is reviewed and meets flood-safety guidelines.

The case is expected to be heard in October.

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