The History of SonLight


Anaheim Bulletin
Anaheim, California

May 30, 1980

Church Permit Law Reviewed
By Terry Nutter

ORANGE When the Son Light Christian Center bought a landmark building in the city's "Old Towne" restoration district and served eviction notices on two of four renting merchants, it probably did not suspect the action would cause the city council to re-evaluate some of its policies on church - state separation.

The city responded quickly. On March 25, shortly after escrow closed on the congregation's purchase, the city council adopted a 120-day urgency ordinance requiring churches locating in commercial zones to obtain a conditional use permit.

Up to then, churches in those areas did not need a CUP, although churches in residential and professional zones did.

According to a staff report received by the council this week and passed on to the planning commission, 11 of the city's 47 churches, including Pastor Joe
Magliato's interdenominational Son Light, have settled into commercial property.

On a motion by Councilman Jess Perez, the council instructed the planners to make a recommendation on whether churches locating in already-developed commercial zones should be required to obtain a CUP.

The planners tentatively are scheduled to hold a public hearing on the question June 16.

In its study, the staff recommended that the city require churches moving into commercial land to obtain a CUP in order to force compliance with health and safety codes, to regulate such problems as parking, to help "preserve the integrity of commercial retail centers" and "promote compatible land uses."

The report also noted that churches in the commercial areas have an adverse financial impact on the city. Religious organizations are exempt from property, sales and incomes taxes, as are many church-related activities.

When a church locates on commercial, rather than residential property, the report said, the city loses a comparatively larger amount of funds because the commercial zone generates more tax revenues.

Councilman Perez acknowledged this week that Son Light's acquisition prompted the city to review its Ordinance.

When the council adopted the urgency ordinance in March, Pastor Magliato complained that it was unfair to restrict the church's use of the property after the land had been bought.

"I can't for the life of me understand the sense of urgency, I can't understand the panic part," he added at the time.

Downtown merchants, spearheaded by shopowner Carroll Johnson, who is also the chairman of the Downtown Merchant's Association, had charged that the church planned to operate a private elementary school in the building.

Magliato denied the accusation, saying the church would move its bookstore to the property and hold youth meetings and activities there.

The building is across the street from the 650-member church's headquarters, a converted theater at 172 N. Glassell St.


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