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Elk Grove Catholics Riled, Express Displeasure With Elk Grove City Council

The axiom about not mixing politics and religion was put to the test at last night's Elk Grove City Council meeting and the results were not pretty.

During the public comment section of the session, several Catholic parishioners expressed strong displeasure with the Elk Grove City Council over the handling of the proposed St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church.

The new parish, which is proposed for the west side of Bradshaw Road just north of Sheldon Road, has been a lightening rod of controversy. The initial proposal was rejected by the planning commission citing the projects inconsistency with city’s general plan.

The Sacramento Diocese appealed the decision and after a five-and-a-half hour meeting on September 9 that saw dozens of public speakers, the council seemingly approved the project based on reducing the seating capacity of the church. At the time, Mayor Pat Hume congratulated the parishioners on their new parish.

Subsequent to the September meeting, the council again heard the matter on October 28and after two-and-a-half hours of deliberations decided to continue the matter based on lingering design concerns voiced by the church's adjoining neighbors. To resolve the matter and work toward a solution, the council decided to create an ad hoc committee with members of the church, adjoining neighbors and Mayor Pat Hume and council member Gary Davis.

At the October meeting very few parishioners attended and diocese attorney James Sweeney said the matter had not been properly noticed. Council member Davis said that said he had personally communicated with Sweeney the prior day.

The most pointed criticism of the city council came from Dan Brennan who said parishioners were under the impression that their church had been approved following the September meeting.

City council accused of Chicago backroom politics

“Like a backroom in Chicago, all of a sudden everything changed and two opportunists leaped on the chance to kill the project right then and there,” Brennan said. The two opportunists were not identified

Brennan went on to say he thought voters would be shocked to learn of how the church was being treated. “I intend to share all that information with everybody in Elk Grove,” he said.

In the June 28, 2009 edition of the parish bulletin Brennan is listed as the church’s building contact.

After the public comments, Hume apologized for the misunderstanding at the conclusion of the September meeting and said he hoped the conflicts could be resolved by the ad hoc committee.

“I apologize for the confusion that my comments made,” Hume said. “I apologize from the bottom of my heart.”

Although no specific date for the first ad hoc meeting has been set, city staff said it anticipates the first meeting to take place in early December. The meeting will not be open to the public.

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