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Jacksonville council could amend church-appeal date

JACKSONVILLE ' The City Council may consider reissuing a conditional-use permit for a controversial new church tonight, in order to reopen the option of an appeal.

In the latest legal battle over the First Presbyterian Church's plans to build an 18,163-square-foot church, attorneys are arguing whether opponents missed their chance to appeal the city decision.

The council in its meeting at 7 p.m. in Old City Hall could withdraw and then immediately re-approve the permit, which would establish a new timeframe for filing an appeal.

On Jan. 7, the council approved church plans to build near the 10-acre, 40-home residential subdivision in Pheasant Meadows.

A community group, Friends of Jacksonville, has opposed the project, arguing that the project doesn't comply with the city's comprehensive plan.

Friends' attorney Liam Sherlock said his clients decided to appeal the city's decision to the state Land Use Board of Appeals. But, Sherlock said, a city letter incorrectly told them the appeal deadline was Feb. 3.

I relied upon the city's deadline date when filing my motion to appeal, said Sherlock, who filed the appeal on Jan. 31.

The church's attorney said the actual deadline is Jan. 28.

City Administrator Paul Wyntergreen said the council will meet at 6:30 p.m. today in executive session to discuss clarifying the time frames in order to afford everyone due process.

Wyntergreen, however, said he remains certain the Feb. — filing date is accurate.

Again, we're still standing behind the dates provided in our original notice, said Wyntergreen. However, the city attorney advised the council to hold an executive session to discuss the ramifications of the motion to dismiss and see if they want to take any action.

Alan Harper, attorney for the First Presbyterian Church, said the city has misinterpreted the law. Harper said the 21-day LUBA deadline clock actually started running on the city's Jan. 7 decision date and not on the Jan. 13 notification date.

Harper said he immediately filed a motion with LUBA to dismiss as soon as he realized the deadline had been missed.

Sherlock said Jacksonville city attorney Kurt Knudsen told him it was the city's intention to provide the Friends of Jacksonville with an opportunity to appeal its decision regarding the church siting.

Clearly, the best way to do this in light of the confusion surrounding the city's previous notice would be for the city to simply withdraw its decision and reissue it, said Sherlock. There is no downside for the city if it takes this approach, yet it would allow the Friends of Jacksonville to proceed with their appeal on its merit.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail