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Court Upholds Building of Church Without Environmental Report

October 01, 1987|CARLA RIVERA | Times Staff Writer

An Orange County Superior Court judge Wednesday upheld the Anaheim City Council's decision not to require an environmental impact report for construction of a church in Anaheim Hills that had attracted angry opposition from homeowners in the area.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has proposed building a 24,800-square-foot church and a 50-foot tower on an 11-acre parcel in the 400 block of Fairmont Boulevard. The church will also provide more than 300 parking spaces.

Residents had sought to block the development, contending that it would increase traffic congestion and noise levels and would harm the environment. The group argued that the city should not have issued a permit for its construction without a full environmental impact report.

Church's Studies Cited

But Judge Ronald L. Bauer ruled that the Anaheim Hills Citizens Coalition, the homeowners group that brought the suit, failed to present evidence justifying the need for a full environmental impact report and said that traffic and noise studies commissioned by church officials supported the council's position.

"The quality and quantity of material presented is insufficient to suggest the negative declaration (on environmental impact issued by the city) was an incorrect decision. . . . There is no evidence there ought to be a full EIR," Bauer said.

The City Council voted in April to allow construction to proceed despite two Planning Commission decisions to deny a building permit.

Bauer said the homeowners group had ample time and opportunity to present its best evidence to the City Council during an April hearing but failed to do so.

But coalition attorney Gary Baum argued that the homeowners were a grass-roots organization that formed around the church issue and did not have time to gather expert opinions on the environmental impact. The coalition has since incorporated and has opposed other developments in the Anaheim Hills area.

Robert Zemel, the coalition president, said the group will consider appealing Wednesday's decision.

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