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2 Churches Join the Fight Against Building Limits

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Roman Catholics and Baptists have joined an Armenian Orthodox congregation in seeking relief from Glendale’s historic preservation ordinance, which critics claim is hindering their exercise of religious freedom.

The two churches announced their support Monday of St. Mary’s Armenian Apostolic Church, which has planned to erect an Eastern-style dome on the church roof but has been blocked by the ordinance.

Church representatives will ask the City Council today to remove their 69-year-old building, plus the First Baptist Church of Glendale and the Holy Family Catholic Church, from a list of 34 structures covered by the city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance.

The City Council will consider changes to the ordinance to streamline procedures governing historic buildings.

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“We just want to be able to practice our religion freely, like other churches,” said Vahik Satoorian, the church’s treasurer. “And if that means building a new Sunday school, we think we should be able to do that. We thought, since they are modifying and improving the ordinance, why not deal with this issue as well?”

As it stands, the ordinance requires that construction work on the Armenian church and other designated properties be approved by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, a layer of red tape that has delayed past efforts to reinforce the church against earthquakes and install stained glass windows, and which members consider an infringement on their religious rights.

At first, the church and its lawyers sought an amendment to the city’s General Plan that would remove the building from the historic roster, but they said they were dismayed to learn that procedure would require the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report, costing as much as $50,000.

But now, church officials hope to circumvent that lengthy process while the entire ordinance is being modified.

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Representatives of Holy Family and the First Baptist Church said both wish that their sanctuaries would be removed from the list of historic properties.

“I would be pleased not to have all the restrictions they have fastened to historical buildings,” said First Baptist Pastor Jim Brougher. “Throughout the years, we’ve always been cooperative with the city. But the notion of having to seek approval for changes to a church is foreign to me.”

Members of the Glendale Historical Society opposed the church’s request to take St. Mary’s off the historic rolls, saying that doing so would invite all buildings from Glendale’s early days to be altered or even razed. City planning officials are also wary of the move because they hope the church will one day be placed on a state or national register of historic sites.


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