Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nuts and Bolts, Nuts and Bolts . . . We Got Screwed

I have to pass this story along. It involves a recent business deal with our church. First, a little background:

The Alum Creek Church is located in Orange Township in Delaware County Ohio. Our church has had multiple problems with the zoning regulations within the township. They have very stringent zoning codes and are enforced with gestapo enthusiasm (I learned this when I put a church garage sale sign out a day early and found it stuck inside our church door). The most visible example of their overzealous control is the current site of the church. Our church address is 6256 S. Old State, but you cannot gain access to our church through Old State Rd. Upon entering the township, the zoning board made us alter our building site plan by 90 degrees. So . . . need less to say, they are a little particular.

We were approached several months ago by a local cable company that wanted to do business in Orange Township. Currently, the township is serviced by only one provider, so there is a total lack of competition. In order to bring their business to the township they need to build a relay center to relay the lasers. The first approached the township about building it on government property. The trustees denied the request. They next approached the Olentangy School district about placing it on school grounds, which they also denied. That left them with the option of pursing private land. Our church was perfectly placed.

They met with our leaders and laid it out - while its probably not appropriate to disclose the details of the agreement, the church stands to gain several thousand dollars through the lease, as well as free Internet, cable, and telephone service. It fits into our broader hopes, however, of serving the community as an alternate provider. There is a small location at the rear of our church (surrounded on two sides by trees and one side by the church building) that they desired to place it. They drew up plans and requested a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. This is a five member board who grant or deny zoning variance requests within the township.

That meeting was last Thursday night. Myself and one of our elders attended the meeting, as did two members of the Villages of Alum Creek subdivision (who both spoke on our behalf), and another worried neighbor (who wasn't crazy about the idea, but who doesn't even live within a half mile of the church). Much discussion ensued, surprising the cable representative who had done 40 of these and never had such a lengthy process. The board members asked why they couldn't put it on the other side of the tracks (something the lasers wouldn't allow), or on township property (something they had already tried, but were told no), or another place already zone business (they had tried two or three and been denied). After long discussion (really led by one vocal member who was especially belligerent in references to church and could be a problem for us in the future) two were for us and two were against us leaving the board chair to cast the deciding "no" vote. The deal was off because of a 3-2 vote from a voluntary board of appeals.

That was disappointing enough, but what happened next was absurd and we have done all we can do to resist bringing public attention to the situation. This week I found out that Orange Township called the cable providers office Friday morning (!) just a few hours after the end of the meeting to offer "several" options for the cable company to consider on township land. They stole the deal right out from under us - after they had already been offered the deal! Mary Beth called the township office yesterday to inquire about a "rumor" of another cable company coming to the area . . . which they were "excited" to say the deal would be done by the end of the year after they consider a couple different options south of Orange Rd. (our building is north of Orange Rd.) Wow. It sounds like some Dateline episode. Or better yet, maybe John Stossel would like to add it to his list of Give Me a Break!

I couldn't believe it!


Jeff Slater said...

Man, that sucks! You need to sick a local investigative reporter on them. Of course, it would be great to see John Stossel stick a microphone in their face!

Kristen said...

Well I offered to toilet paper the guy's house...

so hey, no complaining :P

That would be cool though if we could get a reporter to write an article about how the township keeps screwing the church over with every little "mistake" or thing we try to get them to approve.. hmm. losers.