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Conditional Use Permit In Church Building and Design Development

Years ago I was hired by a church in Morgan Hill California called Hillside Church to help them relocate from their property into an industrial park. In doing so, we had to visit the planning department and get what’s called a Conditional Use Permit.

We ran into some problems. The reality is the town didn’t necessarily want to have a church in an industrial park any more than they want to have one in a commercial shopping center, because churches don’t pay property taxes or generate sales tax. Most cities would rather have a commercial business in industrial parks because the city gets income from them. That was one strike against us. We also found out that the City Planning Department did not want us in that industrial park because on one end of the property there was a laboratory, it was three hundred feet away—that is an entire football field, while in the other direction there was another commercial company whose by-product was some type of toxic waste that had to be put into fifty-five gallon drums with the skull of the crossbones on it. So we got shot down by the Planning Department. Note: when they vote against your project, it’s not necessarily the death of for your project. You can appeal the decision to the City Council, and that is what we decided to do. We needed  to be smart about how we did this.

Before the meeting at the City Council, I looked at the size of the city council chamber. It had about one hundred  twenty seats. So we got three hundred people from the church to show up the night of the hearing with the city council and had them fill every seat with some standing around the outside of the perimeter of seats, with more people filling the lobby and spilling out into the parking lot. We had people everywhere. Earlier that day, I went to two news stations and picked up their bumper stickers. Back then the camcorders we had were big, over-the-shoulder, bulky cameras. We got two of those set one up on a tripod on the back left side of the city council chambers and the other one up on the back right side. The bumper stickers were trimmed so that all you could see was the new station logo. When the City Council members came in, they were quite surprised to see all the people. They checked the agenda to find out what was going on that brought hundreds of people an news cameras. Who wouldn’t be shocked? They found out that Hillside Church was appealing the decision of the Planning Department. When they asked how many people are here for Hillside Church, everybody in the room raise their hands and they agreed to move us to the first item on the agenda so that the people could go home and clear space for others who were on the agenda.

The Planning Commission explained why they turned us down – because the property is three hundred feet away from a laboratory and a company that produces toxic waste. As the applicant, we’ve got to come up and speak as well.  We had the church’s pastor, Mikey Anderson talk to the Council. He described how much he loved Morgan Hill, and that when he and his family moved to California they could have moved anywhere, but the look and the feel of Morgan Hill was just the perfect environment to raise their kids in. It felt like church, God, baseball and apple pie – just a wonderful place to be at. Then he told how unbelievably hurt he was to find out that that image he had of Morgan Hill had been shattered: the city would rather have lab rats and toxic waste than God and churches. I don’t know if a tear came to his eyes but I was blown away by what the speech did it. The mayor interrupted and stood up—pounding his fist on the desk and said “I’m for God in America and apple pie and mom and I say you get your permit!” They took a vote right there—seven to nothing in favor of the church.

Sometimes you have to be creative in how you approach the City Council. f God is in it, God always wins! Remember what Solomon taught us: seek wisdom, look for knowledge, and it will serve you well”.

Let me know how I can help you.  Call me at 719-439-3019.

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