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Church, City at Odds Over Building Project's Traffic Impact


Members of the St. Verena Coptic Church concede they're a little bewildered over opposition to their plans to build a church and assembly hall in Anaheim.

The buildings are proposed for a site at Vermont Avenue and State College Boulevard. Some City Council members are reluctant to approve the plans because of concerns the facilities would add to traffic in the neighborhood.

Church officials say the planned 100 parking spaces are adequate for their needs; city staff say 270 spaces will be needed.

Parishioners said that for religious reasons, they do not use the church and assembly hall at the same time. But should the need arise, parishioners said a neighboring school and church have volunteered their parking lots.

The church, whose origins stem from a form of Christianity practiced in Egypt, currently shares a facility with First Southern Baptist Church on East Broadway. Officials say parking problems haven't come up.

"If you look at our history and our churches, we don't have this problem at all," said Nashat Benyamein, a member of St. Verena and its real estate broker. Benyamein said the planned church will seat 306 people and that 100 parking spaces should more than accommodate families coming to worship.

But despite such assurances, some neighbors fear overflow parking will intensify an already tight parking situation at Boysen Park. "We are dealing with an extremely busy area, pedestrian traffic is high and [is] mostly children," wrote Donald Capon, president of the East Anaheim American Little League Assn. in a letter to the council.

During a recent public hearing, some City Council members also expressed concern over the parking. "There's concern not just for the Coptic Church. We're finding that parking is a huge problem," said Councilwoman Shirley McCracken.

McCracken said she would like to see the church work out the parking problem so she can approve the plans. But she believes the church is trying to put too much on a 1 1/2-acre lot. Church officials will have to decrease the size of their buildings or buy adjacent land, she said.

Other council members disagreed with McCracken and said they would like to approve the church now. City traffic engineer John Lower signed off on a parking study commissioned by the church, and that's good enough for her, said Councilwoman Lucille Kring.

"I trust John Lower's opinion," she said.

The council is scheduled to make a decision on the church's construction plans July 11.

Judy Silber may be reached at (714) 966-5988.

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