International Pentecostal televangelist Morris Cerullo was granted approval Tuesday to build a $131 million religious-themed resort and conference center following a vote by the San Diego City Council.
Cerullo's World Evangelism website revealed that the Legacy International Project has been backed by the council after the project's environmental impact report and development permit were approved in a 7-2 vote.
The project will be built over the 18-acre site of the former Mission Valley Resort, and will reportedly include a new 127-room hotel and restaurant. It will also host a replica of Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, and will screen biblical films at a domed theater.
"It's a wonderful, wonderful vote to cause us to rejoice that San Diego finally can greet people with their desires that make San Diego a better city," said Teresa Cerullo, wife of the televangelist.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that members of the LGBT community spoke out against the building plan, but said their concerns were based solely on a potential increase in traffic.
Morris Cerullo World Evangelism maintained, however, that traffic caused by people visiting the Legacy Center would not exceed permitted limits, and would not contribute to a significant impact on traffic in the area.
Councilman Scott Sherman, whose district includes Mission Valley, spoke about potential concerns with the religious nature of the project: "We can't take into consideration a lot of this ancillary discussion about religion and values.
"We should not be using that as a benchmark for whether it's allowed. What's important is whether it meets guidelines set forth by the city, and I believe it does," Sherman added.
"We have property rights and it's very important we don't abridge those property rights, especially when it comes to matters of religious organizations."
Councilwoman Barbara Bry said that she still has concerns about the traffic, though she also voted in favor of the development.
"We are not allowed to address what we like or do not like on this site," she said. "I know it will upset many people close to me, but my job is to look at what we are allowed to decide on."
Project Manager Jim Penner said that people's concerns will disappear once the center opens in 2019.
"Everyone comes to a point in life where they're influenced by past experiences but once they come and walk through the center after it is finished, they will see it as a place of welcome, and any concerns they had will evaporate fairly quickly," Penner said.
"We now have the opportunity to be able to prove it to them but before it's built, it's hard to give them that experience."
Cerullo's ministry spread around the world following major international preaching missions he organized. He has met some controversy, and was indicted for failing to report his total income for over three years in the 1990s, though charges in the case were dismissed.
Cerullo, 86, told The Christian Post in an interview in December that he has battled serious health issues, but has recovered after being bedridden for nearly eight months in 2016.
The televangelist told CP that it was God's healing that restored him after vasculitis, a family of uncommon diseases that feature inflammation of the blood vessels with no known cause, left him unable to move.
"This is probably the greatest miracle I've ever seen in my life. You know I've seen thousands and thousands of people miraculously cured but nothing like this. I was given up by the doctors. I was paralyzed, they had me in a wheelchair for maybe seven, eight months this year," Cerullo said at the time.