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A battle pitting residents in Plymouth against a Twin Cities megachurch hoping to build a large facility in their neighborhood is taking on an ominous tone, with one side hinting the matter could land in court.

Attorneys representing Eagle Brook Church say they will sue the west metro suburb if the City Council upholds its decision in December to turn down the church's proposal to build a 64,000-square-foot building with 685 parking spots on the northwest corner of Chankahda Trail and Maple Grove Parkway.

The resolution passed on a 6-1 vote called for city staff and attorneys to come up with "finding of fact" to support the reason for denying the church's request, and bring them to Tuesday's City Council meeting.

"There is no lawful basis to deny such permission," attorney Samuel Diehl with the Minneapolis law firm CrossCastle PLLC. wrote in a letter to the city. "If the Council chooses this regrettable course, Eagle Brook will pursue litigation. Fortunately, the Council may choose to avoid this outcome."

Plymouth spokeswoman Emilie Kastner said the city does not discuss pending or threatened litigation, but the council will hold a closed meeting for a confidential attorney-client privileged discussion of the threatened lawsuit.

An item to consider a resolution for denial is on the agenda for a regularly scheduled council meeting open to the public at 7 p.m.

The property — farmland that is the last large remaining parcel of undeveloped land in the city — would allow for a church as it is currently zoned. But hundreds of residents who live in or near neighborhoods adjacent to the proposed building have pushed back. They have flooded City Hall with letters and emails, and packed City Council meetings wearing "Vote No" stickers. A few have hired a law firm to help them fight back.

The residents say the church would increase traffic congestion in the area, harm the environment and take valuable property off the city tax rolls. They also worry their home values would drop. Another objection is the sheer size of the building at 35 feet tall, said Megan Rogers, an attorney with Larkin Hoffman representing some residents.

"The applicant is asking the Council to approve a convention center-like facility larger than the entirety of the exhibition space at St. Paul's Rivercentre, and more than twice the size of the largest ballroom in the state of Minnesota" in the heart of Plymouth's residential core, Rogers wrote in a letter. "The building is inconsistent with the residential character of the neighborhood."

Rogers also said allowing the church to consume 53 acres would hinder the city's ability to provide affordable housing as called for in the city's comprehensive plan.

"State law allows cities to deny a CUP [conditional use permit] when it has a rational basis for doing so, and the City retains the discretion to determine whether a specific authorized use actually 'fits' in an area proposed for the use," she wrote.

Eagle Brook, which has held services at Wayzata High School for the past five years, has been looking for a place to build a permanent home in the west metro. It withdrew plans to build in Minnetonka after residents pushed back. The neighboring city of Corcoran denied Eagle Brook a permit to build there.

The search led Eagle Brook to Plymouth and the church last fall signed a purchase agreement for the land.

Eagle Brook has 11 campuses in the Twin Cities area and one in Rochester. About 20,000 people attend in-person services each week across the campuses, including Wayzata. Thousands more tune in online, according to the church's 2023 annual report posted on its website.

The church expects up to 2,800 people to attend weekend services at the Plymouth location, according to city documents.

Diehl, the church's attorney, said Eagle Brook's application and proposed use complies with all of Plymouth's requirements and standards, and that the church will not cause any negative effects. He said the church has hoped to avoid adversarial legal action and has tried to be patient as it looks to secure a site to build.

"However, its patience cannot continue forever," he wrote in his letter. "Eagle Brook believes it is obligated to serve its congregation and this community through a permanent church home. To accomplish this, it is prepared to exercise its legal rights."