Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene: A David and Goliath Story

The below speech was written by Oro Valley resident, Ed Clary, and was presented during the Call to Audience at the March 1 Town Council Meeting.
“This evening, I’d like to discuss the proposed rezone of residential property acquired by the Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene (OVCN).

The Planning and Zoning Commission rejected the proposal [on February 7th] after literally years of the town staff working to bring it into compliance with the General Plan. By the time it gets to the Planning and Zoning Commission, it’s almost unheard of for a project to still not be compliant. Yet, OVCN clearly is so inflexible that it cannot accomplish this.

Nonetheless, they are given endless opportunity after opportunity. OVCN kicks the can down the road while they work to either elect a favorable Council or delay review by the Planning and Zoning Commission until new commissioners are appointed, or they threaten litigation if they don’t get their way, in much the same way that a playground bully threatens -- Give me what I want or else.

From the pulpit, OVCN has equated this situation as akin to the battle between David and Goliath. Interestingly though, OVCN asserts that it is David, despite its at least three deep pocket outside supporters and thousands of congregants all led and organized by impassioned ministers. Goliath, in this scenario, is the Town (who is neutral and has bent over backwards to facilitate the process despite OVCN intransigence) and several dozen neighbors (almost all of whom have been ignored wholesale by OVCN). If it weren’t so disturbing, it would be laughable at every level. Who is bullying whom?

OVCN has threatened a lawsuit which is based on the legal premise that a church can essentially do anything it wants with its land if it asserts that what they want to do or build is required for their religion. Don’t be intimidated. Every legal precept has limits. Example: One cannot yell fire in a crowded theater, the First Amendment notwithstanding.

Sports are wonderful but they are not required to practice one’s religion. If they were, why doesn’t every Nazarene church have such facilities?

Where does this stop? If you approve this, what precedent have you set? Every entity in the Town, be it another church, a business, or a private citizen, will now be able to say, “You approved this for them, you need to approve such an egregious waiver for me, too.” Zoning will cease to have any function or place in Oro Valley.

The Planning and Zoning Commission’s job is to ensure it meets code. It doesn’t – that’s why they rejected it, and that alone should be enough for you to reject it as well. But even if it met code, it’s also your job to decide whether something is a good idea and in the right location or not. And at every level, this isn’t the right location for this project.

So the answer is simple. Do the right thing, vote against the proposal, and let the chips fall where they may -- because if you are intimidated, the law of unintended consequences will wreak more havoc than any lawsuit that OVCN files.”