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Buena Park’s planned butterfly pavilion requests more time, City Council says no


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A planned Buena Park butterfly sanctuary that was expected to be one of the world’s largest – and whose developer has already sunk at least $15 million into it – appears to be in jeopardy.

Construction of the Butterfly Palladium began in 2016 and it was supposed to wrap up by October. But with the building less than 15 percent done and its financing uncertain, the City Council this week denied a request to extend the completion deadline.

Part of the delay is because a 17,500-square-foot glass atrium, the $40 million project’s signature feature, is being constructed in Europe and won’t be ready until 2020, attorney Adam Telanoff told the council Tuesday, Jan. 8. Telanoff represents the butterfly exhibit’s developer, retired shopping center magnate Rubin Stahl, who spearheaded a similar project in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Also, with the project behind schedule, it’s been hard to secure needed financing before getting an extension on Stahl’s development agreement with the city, Telanoff said.

City officials were unmoved. The site, formerly the Movieland Wax Museum, is a prominent one on Beach Boulevard about a half mile from Knott’s Berry Farm in the city’s entertainment corridor, and officials worried about a partially finished building being an eyesore and attracting vandalism.

“Every time they’ve made a promise, it’s been broken,” Councilman Fred Smith said. “I have no faith whatsoever and I don’t want to do this to our city.”

What happens next and exactly how long it will take to resolve the situation is unclear.

The council asked city staff members to prepare a notice of default. Once that is sent, the developer would have 30 days to either secure financing or convince the city he has a viable plan to do so, Community Development Director Joel Rosen said Friday.

Telanoff could not be reached for comment on what Stahl plans to do, but Rosen said several things could happen.

Stahl could sell the property, either to a buyer who would finish the project or someone with other plans, or the city could take the developer to court to force some sort of action, Rosen said. Rosen said in his career he’s never dealt with this situation so he’s not sure what to expect.

“Everybody loves this project. The city wanted this project,” he said, adding that after learning about Stahl’s Scottsdale exhibit, city leaders encouraged him to come to Buena Park. “It’s just very sad that it’s not moving forward at this time.”<<
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