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Church, Costco at Odds Over Site

Land: Cypress officials recommend that retail project, not Cottonwood Christian Center, be built near Los Alamitos track.

April 06, 2002|SCOTT MARTELLE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's not exactly a Solomon's choice, but Cypress redevelopment officials are recommending the city back plans for a Costco near the storied Los Alamitos horse track, and turn down a prior bid for a 4,700-seat mega church.

The City Council will consider the recommendation Monday despite a lawsuit Cottonwood Christian Center filed in January that accuses Cypress officials of violating federal law by hindering its efforts to build a church within the Los Alamitos Race Track and Golf Course Redevelopment Project.

City officials could not be reached for comment Friday. The recommendation is on Monday's council agenda.

Church officials, who have been planning a $50-million complex on the 18-acre site for 21/2 years, said they learned about the recommendation when they checked the meeting agenda.

Cottonwood spent $13 million for six contiguous land parcels at Katella Avenue and Walker Street in 1999 and petitioned the city in 2000 to let it build a church complex. City officials, instead, declared a two-year moratorium on developing the site, which lies within the Los Alamitos redevelopment area.

Cottonwood and city officials have been negotiating a land swap in recent months that would move the church to an adjacent site and make way for a Costco on the vacant prime corner location the church owns.

It was not clear what the city's recommendation would do to those efforts, but church officials were openly frustrated Friday."It appears their goal is to drive the owners off and put retail there," said Mike Wilson, Cottonwood's project director.

A church attorney said Cottonwood officials would consider legal options, including seeking an injunction, if the city presses ahead.

"It brings into question whether the city has ever negotiated in good faith," said Jon Curtis of Los Angeles, the church's attorney. "Their conduct is just outrageous to me."

Retail use would bring in tax revenue. City officials have said they prefer shops, which they feel would complement the racetrack, which is adjacent to the Cypress Golf Club.

The 4,000-member church hopes to build a house of worship, conference rooms, youth center, licensed preschool, bookstore and coffee shop.

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