Clay County residents frustrated they didn’t get to share concerns at meeting regarding church’s plans for tiny village
EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. — Frustrations erupted Tuesday night among a crowd of more than 100 people who showed up at a Clay County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting to express concerns about a church’s plan to build a small village near some caves just outside Excelsior Springs, Mo.
Commissioners were scheduled to discuss a rezoning proposal submitted by a controversial religious group, known as the Church of Liberty or Fellowship of the Martyrs. They want to build a tiny village of eco-friendly houses on a plot of land they lease along McCleary and Old Quarry Roads.
Commissioners pointed out several things were missing from Perry’s application, including concrete sewer, water and road plans for the development; so they asked the pastor of that church, Doug Perry, to answer questions about his plans in front of the crowd.
Perry spoke for more than 40 minutes, fleshing out his proposal to rezone his property as a multi-family residential area so members of his church can all live, work and worship together.
But no one else was allowed to say anything.
When Perry wrapped, the commissioners voted to table his application until he could provide them with compete information and more specific plans. They then told everyone else they had to hold their questions and concerns until the issue could be revisited at another hearing on Nov. 3.
“We obviously didn’t get our chance to speak to the things that he said,” said Gail Colvin, who lives near the church’s land. “I don’t think that was right at all. All of these people who were here tonight that are taxpayers in Clay County were not heard.”
“He got to speak about religion in here in front of all of us,” said Jeremy Simmons, a concerned citizen. “This is all about religion. But we can’t talk about it at a planning and zoning meeting. That’s frustrating.”
Excelsior Springs Mayor Pro Tem Brad Eals also shared concerns about how the meeting wrapped.
“Most of all, I’m probably frustrated,” Eals said. “I think it’s illegal for the commission to hold an agenda item and allow one side of the item to be discussed by the person and not by both sides.”
At the beginning of the meeting, the commission explicitly told the crowd they were not allowed to make this a religious issue, as everyone is entitled to freedom of religion in our county. But Perry told Fox 4 he thinks that’s exactly what’s happening.
“I think a lot of people were there tonight who aren’t concerned really about the sewers or the traffic or whatever,” Perry said. “They just don’t like me. It’s nonsense and it’s hurtful, and like I said in the meeting, we’re not a landfill. It’s not right to treat people this way.”
Perry said he’s going to take the next two months to provide the requested water and traffic studies so he can provide commissioners with answers to all of their questions. He said he’s confident the final plan will get approval.
“There’s no reason not to approve it in my mind,” he said, “except for political or personal reasons and fear. Ultimately, it comes down to fear.”