City of Cypress, Costco grab land from church

When James Carville uttered the famous phrase, ‘it’s the economy stupid’, he signaled an era in which money would be valued over everything, even our souls.

The City of Cypress is the latest example of a government agency salivating over new retail tax dollars and dismissing the valuable contribution churches make in a community. Their hunger and thirst for cash is so out of control they are arguing that by applying the law of eminent domain they can forcibly seize a piece of property already bought and paid for by members of the Cottonwood Christian Center. What’s worse, they’ve convinced Costco, usually known for it’s good neighbor policies, to join them in this unconscionable land grab.

Here’s the story: Cottonwood Christian Center spent a couple of years working on a land deal that resulted in negotiating with four property owners to sell six parcels of land for $13 million dollars. The combined property can now be developed into a 16-acre campus suitable for a growing 4,000-member church. Prior to the land consolidation, developers were uninterested in the site and the zoning allowed for a church to be built on the property.

Cottonwood then began a one-year process of developing plans for the site only to learn that the city had decided to apply the law of eminent domain to take over the property and zone it for retail use. Eminent domain is the law allowing the government to seize property for the common good. Previously it has cleared the way for railroad tracks or freeway routes, but few have tried to argue that ‘shopping’ is a ‘common good’ use adequate for the seizure of privately owned property.

Now the City of Cypress is applying this law to clear the way for a new Costco store. The church will be forced to sell the property at a reduced rate so that a nice new retail Costco outlet can serve the ‘common good’ and Cypress can garner the tax revenues of a large, successful retailer.

Costco is based here in the Seattle area and is respected as a good citizen. The idea that their site selection team would be involved in a land grab from a church that created one 16-acre property out of six parcels seems out of character. Costco itself has worked hard to develop such deals in other locations and one can only imagine what would happen if a local church convinced a city council to force Costco to yield property they identified, consolidated and owned, based on the eminent domain principle.

Regardless of one’s religions convictions, what the City of Cypress is doing is unjust and Costco will share the shame if the church loses the property IT identified, consolidated and paid for. When you add the potential first amendment issues allowing for free expression of religion, the case becomes even more problematic for Cypress and Costco.

I’m still optimistic that people of good will can agree that what is happening in this situation is wrong, and that there are people of good will in the leadership team at Costco and in the Cypress City government.

I intend to register my concern with both the city of Cypress and Costco, and would ask you to consider doing the same. Here is the contact information:

COSTCO
PO Box 34331
Issaquah, WA 98027
Chairman: Jeffrey Brotman
President and Chief Executive: James Sinegal

City of Cypress
City Council
5275 Orange Avenue
PO Box 609
Cypress, CA 90630
(714) 229-6700

For updates from the church go to: www.cottonwood.org

For a background news story go to: CNSnews.com – Cottonwood story

Posted in Staublog, Thoughts in April 12, 2002 by | No Comments »

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