Cypress OKs Land Deal, Avoiding Church-State Rights Confrontation

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Times Staff Writer

Like loaves and fishes, land values and acreage multiplied for Cottonwood Christian Center during its two-year battle with Cypress.

In a three-way agreement made final by a unanimous vote of the City Council on Monday, Cottonwood agreed to sell 18 acres of coveted redevelopment land to Cypress for $18.8 million, resulting in a profit of about $5.3 million. With that money, the church will purchase 29 acres nearby for $17 million.

The price Cottonwood received included an estimated $500,000 reimbursement from the city for the cost of planning its initial project, a process that will have to be redone on its new land.


In return, the city gets control of real estate that will be the centerpiece of redevelopment efforts that involve 300 acres surrounding the Los Alamitos Race Course. Cypress officials are negotiating to get a Costco on the property, at Katella Avenue and Walker Street.

The deal also signaled the end of a nationally watched battle that pitted a city’s redevelopment rights against a church’s freedom of religion. Both sides have agreed to drop their court actions once escrow is completed in August.

Cottonwood, a Los Alamitos-based, 4,500-member church whose evangelical services are broadcast in more than 100 countries, bought 18 acres from four owners in Cypress’ redevelopment zone for $13 million in 1999.

Church officials wanted to build a 4,700-seat sanctuary, a preschool, bookstore, coffee shop, meeting facilities and youth center.

In October 2000, city officials rejected the church’s plans, indicating that they preferred commercial development on the site. Last May, the City Council unanimously voted to condemn the church’s land to make way for Costco.

But a federal judge in August temporarily halted the city’s plan, a ruling the city had appealed.


The deal began taking shape seven months ago when Ed Allred, owner of the Los Alamitos Race Course, bought the adjacent 92-acre Cypress Golf Course and offered to sell a portion of it to the church.

“The way I see it is nothing short of miraculous,” said Bayless Conley, Cottonwood’s senior pastor.