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Garden Grove OKs Cao Dai Church

Council members grant conditional use permit for worship site and caretaker's home despite objections by neighbors.


Garden Grove officials gave a green light this week to the state's first Cao Dai church, despite residents who protested having a religious facility in their neighborhood.

Council members granted a conditional use permit Tuesday for construction of a 2,150-square-foot church and a caretaker's home nearly the same size at 8791 Orangewood Ave.

The facility would provide about 200 followers of the Cao Dai faith in Orange County a place to pray aside from their homes and offices. The structure will have a traditional Asian theme with three 30-foot towers, and it will be bordered by 60 trees. The caretaker's house will include a kitchen, office areas, restrooms and separate dining areas for men and women, said Matthew Fertal, the city's director of community development.

The religion, which combines parts of Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Judaism and Taoism, was founded in the 1920s and has about 5 million followers worldwide.

The structure will resemble the one-acre Cao Dai headquarters in Tay Ninh province, northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. There, a French colonial building with a red-tiled roof is adorned with dragons wrapped around columns.

But nearby residents say the structure will become an eyesore attracting more traffic and noise, and will create a parking problem for the neighborhood. Residents collected about 200 signatures to oppose the project, said Frank Fedak, who has lived next to the proposed church property for 35 years.

"It's going to shatter the peace of the neighborhood," said Fedak, 57, of Garden Grove. "This is a nonreligious issue. It's a neighborhood integrity issue. If there was a Catholic church there, I'd be just as upset. It's a nonresidential activity in a residential neighborhood."

Residents also told council members that the proposed design would not fit in with their 1950s-style homes.

He said the facility will block his view--and his everyday passion for watching the moon sneak through the palm trees from his front porch.

"One person's religious icon is another person's eyesore," he said. "That's what we're dealing with."

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