Do churches trump all?
The Jan. 23 letter by Ruth Perry, thanking the Pitkin County commissioners for approving the Grace Church application to build a 15,000-plus square foot complex, quotes a poem implying that the county’s zoning regulations would otherwise have “outlawed simple prayer” and imposed “restrictive laws through legislative creed” that “fail to understand that God is what we need.”
Many residents of the Emma area appeared at the commissioners’ meeting in opposition to the church’s application, but that opposition had nothing to do with outlawing prayer or restricting anyone’s need for or belief in God. The opposition was based on the fact that the 18-acre parcel in issue is subject to A-10 zoning, which limits nonresidential development. The land is a historic sheep ranch and is at the heart of an exceptionally undeveloped valley, so that the proposed buildings are inconsistent with their surroundings. In addition, the opponents pointed out that the proposed church would have adverse impacts on traffic on Highway 82 and the surrounding roads, and would otherwise degrade the Emma environment.
The county’s decision to allow the application settled a lawsuit brought by the church in 2005. The church argued that a federal law allows religious institutions to develop land regardless of local zoning regulations. Many of us in Emma believe that argument is not right and that the law is unconstitutional for several reasons, including its establishment of religious interests contrary to the First Amendment and without regard for the rights of citizens to have reasonably balanced land use regulation. But none of the opposition was based in any way on opposition to God, prayer or churches.
In short, I am offended by any implication that opposition to the church is discriminatory or anti-religious, and I urge all to stick to the only issue: May churches trump land regulations that are applicable to everyone else?
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