The Marina City Council balked this week at a possible sale of five acres of undeveloped Fort Ord land for a new Mormon church.

The council voted 3-1 against negotiating a possible sale of a portion of the city's future sports complex site at Preston Park to the church, which has plans for a new 19,000- to 20,000-square-foot meeting house.

"The dynamics were along the line of building on blighted areas before open space," Mayor Bruce Delgado said Friday.

The Preston Park land — one of three sites the church has looked at on Fort Ord land in Marina — is part of 16 acres of open dunes the city plans to turn into a sports complex at some point. The site is undisturbed marine chaparral, Delgado said.

"There was a very strong direction that, if at all possible, we don't build on open space," Delgado said.

But the council didn't close the door altogether. On a 4-0 vote, the council called for visits to all three possible sites, followed by a workshop to compare the pros and cons of each.

If it proves too costly for the church to build elsewhere, Delgado said the city may reconsider.

The other sites are in the Cypress Knolls project area, a 180-acre tract of former Army housing owned by the city, and the developer-owned Marina Heights project area.

Each site, Delgado acknowledged, carries different financial implications for both the city and the church. The council earlier ruled out Marina Heights, and the church submitted an offer to buy the Preston Park site in October.

Larry Parsons can be reached at 646-4379 or lparsons@montereyherald.com.