George Boehme: My Opinion

May 14, 2015

West University Baptist Church has done the right thing by bowing out of a struggle with city officials over where the church will build a youth center.

West U city council was scheduled to make a final decision tonight on a proposed land swap with the church, which would have allowed to church to build a youth center on the corner of Milton and College.

The church has told the city council, thanks but no thanks. We’ll build the center on three lots we already own in the middle of the 3800 block of Amherst.

We applaud the church for doing the right thing – ending this nasty political debate.

There is no question the church has the right to build a youth center on any land it owns, regardless of local zone regulations. This is because West U, by ordinance, has said that churches are considered primary uses in residentially zoned areas in West U.

This change in law was made by a prior city council about a decade ago. Add federal and state religious protection laws to the mix, and churches have almost unlimited legal rights to build pretty much any structure they want.

Yes, the church applied for various rulings before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, but that was more a polite gesture than anything else. You must exhaust your “administrative remedies” in order to have standing in a Texas District Court. If the ZBA denies a church a request to build something, a Texas District Court will likely reverse that in an expedited fashion.

So the real question is: which is the proper place for the church youth center? Milton or Amherst? I think Milton, but I am not going to fist fight over it.

Religion? Politics? Public opinion? Personal vendettas?

I don’t know what to believe, anymore.

I went to preschool at West University Methodist Church, more than 50 years ago. My wife and I used to go to St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. My twins went to preschool at West University Church of Christ, and later participated in an after-school program and played basketball at West University Baptist Church.

My personal view is this: Each of the six churches in West University Place is my neighbor. Each of our churches is as much a part of the success of West U as your home or mine.

When the settlers came to this country, they got off the boat, and carved out a patch of land to build a community. Before anyone built a house, together they built the church. Then the settlers built homes around the church. The church was the center of the neighborhood.

And nothing has changed.

George Boehme

George Boehme is the publisher of and West University Essentials magazine.

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