This Week In God

Rants17 Comments

Previously.

Sunflowers

The view from behind my house out to Longs Peak in the distance. They planted sunflowers for the first time since we have lived here. Its a cool sight.

I haven’t covered much on this topic in a while. For those of you new to it and that care about anything other than running, here is a quick recap. This church in Longmont bought up about 300+ acres of land directly behind our house. They outbid the city of Longmont who was going to make it into open space. Oh, well, a church isn’t the worst neighbor. But this wasn’t just a church, it was a planned development with lots of multi-use facilities. It was a city. Over the years, myself and neighbors got involved to object, block and contest the effort. We filed a lawsuit. We went to planning meetings. We went to zoning meetings. We tried to start our own town! A lot of time was involved by a lot of people. We were successful at a few small things, like getting some building height restrictions. Eventually, it turned into an annexation issue between Longmont and neighboring city Firestone. Votes were held. Annexations were overturned (actually, withdrawn). New borders were formed. It was all very exciting. And complicated. And annoying.

But in the grand scheme, we didn’t win the war — or so I/we thought at much of the time. What we did do, however, is put the project through an appropriate amount of scrutiny early on which caused timelines to grow and the project to delay. Now, here nearly 10 years later, the Sunday paper in our town has yet another front page article on the church. This time, things aren’t so rosy:

Promised Land: LifeBridge had high hopes for its development plans; now it has let go of most of its properties

LifeBridge

The force that seemed to get this project off the ground has now crushed it. Money. It took a lot of donations and contributions to acquire the land for this project. We are talking millions of dollars. The plat behind my house was more than 5 million itself. Not a single thing has been built but millions have been spent on development firms, plans, and people. The process is expensive and their have been multiple iterations of it. All at the expense of the church member’s pockets (and big donors). And then the economy took a nose dive and that was a force bigger than you, I or the church. Few saw it coming of course. During our opposition, the delays we caused surely played a hand in pushing the timing of this project out and into this darker economic climate. We didn’t know it at the time of course. But I always felt that if we worked it, a bigger force would eventually solve this problem for us. And it did.

LifeBridge

You can read the article above for details. There was a 2 full-page fold out on the entire timeline in the paper with the whole history. But the basic situation at this point is that the church deeded much of the land that was not zoned for religious use to a 3rd party out of California that helps churches with land issues. So basically, the property directly behind us is not owned locally anymore. This new firm, Church Development Fund (CDF), is chartered with selling this property and taking any remaining proceeds and gifting it back to the church. Shady.

The bad news there is that any deals that might have been cut are sort of off the table. A new owner could show up. Its not going to be Wal-mart or anything (they are building their new superstore 2 miles down the street right now) but who knows who the eventual owner might be. Probably nobody for the foreseeable future that would be ready to work the process to build there. Its well documented that they will see resistance from the neighbors if the proposal isn’t harmonious with the area. We have done this before. We know how to organize now.

LifeBridge

As for the church, they remain in their current location north of Longmont. They have re-mortgaged their current location with that same Church Development Fund company for about 10 million dollars. CDF says, “We are a ministry that assists churches all across the country in developing properties and buildings for the advances of the kingdom of Christ”. Sounds like a winner — I mean crap — to me. Seems like a foreclosure scheme. We will give you great terms and rates ’cause we are all up in Jesus together…but eventually when you can’t pay your bills, we will own your shit. Sorry. The church also says things are changing and people are preferring small localized (possibly rented) worship centers instead of massive structures. Seems like some long term vision rework is needed.

Fundamentally, I do believe this development was still a business-based endeavor disguised to all as a religious pilgrimage to affirm the “right path”. Its hard to poo poo things when people start throwing God and Jesus’ name into the mix. They get sensitive. But when people look for business benefit (like excepting themselves from taxes) by lining up behind a religious charter, it just seems wrong to me.

At times, I was able to talk myself into the reality of this development behind us. It could have been nice. The concept plans were really pretty. But overall, it wasn’t what I desired behind myself when I moved out into an unincorporated area. So we worked the process as it exists. I didn’t like many of the outcomes…mostly because they didn’t go our way. I got to see how it really works in local government.

So we are back to where we started in some sense. The property behind us remains empty and farmed annually. The views of the mountains remain. No mega development will occur there anytime soon. My dirt road I run on every day will likely remain dirt for the foreseeable future.

Oh, and I still worship the devil…

  • Matt

    The architecture firm I used to work at did a bit of planning/ design for a piece of this project. Had it continued without the hold-ups, I would might still be employed there. However it languished (and other projects) and people were let go. It’s the nature of the biz but sometimes NIMBY-ism can be a bitch.

    • Thanks for sharing. Surely, a lot of good people involved in various aspects. I have neighbors that go to this church as well. That was always a bit awkward too. This was their dream. Walk to church.

  • Jesse1612

    “For those of you new to it and that care about anything other than running…”

    Obviously I am not the target reader for this post.

    • Have to pretend to be balanced and talk about something other than the only thing that consumes every other thought of mine.

  • Ashley

    As an attender of the church, I have mixed feelings about the whole deal, but I really appreciate your write-up, Brandon, because it is informative and respectful.

    • Earlier posts were probably not so nice but I was younger and smarter back then. Its been a long road and it was really heated at first. You missed some of that stuff, luckily.

  • mikehinterberg

    Interesting and complicated story.

    You have a group of people wanting to celebrate together; a beautiful plot of land of sunflowers in front of the mountains; and most Sunday mornings all year, it’s quite nice. In my simple world, it seems like it already *is* or could be a church, a great place to celebrate — why spend millions of Caesar’s money?

    I’ve enjoyed some of your previous posts on the topic, since I end up thinking like this when running 3 or 4 hours on Sunday’s. “This was their dream. Walk to church.” If I may digress, in the Fort, most of the town fits within a roughly 7×7 mile grid, and a bike path system roughly encircles the town. In other words, it’s rare to be more than 7 or 8 miles from something if you live in town, including most religious denominations. Yet as I run by, so many of the parking lots are full. It seems to me like a nice tradition would be walking/riding to church as a family, possibly swinging by the neighbor’s house on the way their and riding together, etc., but I just don’t see it. (Come to think of it, where I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, we weren’t more than 15-20 mins walk away — heck, I walked or rode to school right nearby — yet riding or walking to church was unthinkable by everyone.)

    Then I just keep running to stop thinking about stuff like this.

  • mikehinterberg

    Interesting and complicated story.

    You have a group of people wanting to celebrate together; a beautiful plot of land of sunflowers in front of the mountains; and most Sunday mornings all year, it’s quite nice. In my simple world, it seems like it already *is* or could be a church, a great place to celebrate — why spend millions of Caesar’s money?

    I’ve enjoyed some of your previous posts on the topic, since I end up thinking like this when running 3 or 4 hours on Sunday’s. “This was their dream. Walk to church.” If I may digress, in the Fort, most of the town fits within a roughly 7×7 mile grid, and a bike path system roughly encircles the town. In other words, it’s rare to be more than 7 or 8 miles from something if you live in town, including most religious denominations. Yet as I run by, so many of the parking lots are full. It seems to me like a nice tradition would be walking/riding to church as a family, possibly swinging by the neighbor’s house on the way their and riding together, etc., but I just don’t see it. (Come to think of it, where I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, we weren’t more than 15-20 mins walk away — heck, I walked or rode to school right nearby — yet riding or walking to church was unthinkable by everyone.)

    Then I just keep running to stop thinking about stuff like this.

    • Fair. However, I have the kids and I often hear the “you should walk there” thing for other stuff and think to myself…yeah, no thanks. They barely wanted to do this.

      I recall my Dad making some comment while going to church while we were kids. Probably get it wrong here. But it had to do with the fact that everyone is so nice and “how do you do” and “god bless you” inside but then when church let out, the parking lot was like the demolition derby! Get out of my god damn way. Honk. Drive, fool. Honk. Crash.

      • mikehinterberg

        Hah! Yes, my observation is similar. Been almost nailed or cut off running or on bike near church parking lots. Maybe not too much more than big places like Walmart, but it sticks out on the Sunday runs because of the irony.