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Squeezed Out

Zoning battles make churches feel unwelcome--and what to do about it.

The low point in the battle may have been when longtime resident Mary Crowder stood before the city council and told the Cottonwood Christian Center to "get the hell out of Cypress." At the same meeting, her husband of 49 years spoke on the church's behalf: "When you buy something, you ought to be able to build on it."

Or the low point may have been when the plan was first hatched. The city of Cypress, California, would condemn a prime piece of commercial property, 18 acres the church had purchased to build a new facility, and sell the land instead to retail warehouse club Costco.

With that simple move, the city would keep the acreage on the tax rolls and it would produce millions in revenue. The church, which pays no property taxes and generates no sales taxes, could move somewhere else.

It wasn't that simple.

The war in Cypress, which ended in February after a bitter court fight and finally an impressive land-swap, was played out on local television like the strike on Iraq—wall-to-wall coverage ...

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