The zoning issues with Cowboy Church located at 5118 SW 100th Street in Augusta was one of the main focus points in the Butler County Commission Monday morning.
The church, which was established in 2011, has always been known for its rodeo activities and dirt-floor congregation.
“In the vision of our church, we wanted to be where the people are. The arena for us is the family life center of the church and it is our outreach ministry,” explained Cowboy Church spokesman Donald Nicely. “Our goal is to share the gospel at these (rodeo) events and then hopefully move those people and their families into the life of the church.”
The arena, which has stood on the property for many years, is one of the main attractions apart from the Sunday morning services held at the church.
Since the purchase of the property, those involved have taken great pains to comply with any legal or zoning issue in order to establish a church in the current residential zone.
Upon purchase of the property, the founders of the church were assured the current zoning laws would not prohibit the rodeo activities or the foundation of the church due to the grandfather clause.
“We wanted to renovate the barn on the property to use it for a church,” said Rev. Wayne A. Trimmell, “so we met with two county inspectors to get the OK before we started anything. We also met with some of the neighbors. We do not allow alcohol and all of our activities (in the arena) are shut down by 10 p.m.”
The spring after the renovation, when the church first began to take off, the issue of a possible re-zoning to enable the establishment of the church with its rodeo activities began to arise.
“The main issue is not with the riding arena,” commented County Administrator Will Johnson. “It is with the advertisement of the rodeos and arena events. Those activities are actually stipulated in our current zoning codes.”
Without the grandfathering of the established arena, the Cowboy Church would have to file for a conditional use permit, which could potentially halt all arena and rodeo activity.
“Our church is just getting started. If we are not able to use the riding arena, we are in essence, shut down. We might not be able to start back up again,” said Trimmell.
Johnson went on to explain the stipulation in the grandfather clause states any halt for six or more months of a non-conforming use would nullify the grandfather clause, causing the need for a CUP.
“I managed that property for a while when it was transitioning from one owner to the other,” said Jason Griggs. “The property was primarily used for rodeo acting. It was designed for roping and rough stock events.”
Page 2 of 2 - In order to further satisfy the commission there had been no lapse in rodeo events at the property, Facilities Manager Clint Pierce also stood to elaborate.
“I can bring in a few gentlemen that have been here for more than 40 years,” he said. “They’ve been there doing calf roping inside the building and having rodeo events on the outside.
“The problem with the conditional use agreement is that it’s a gamble. It is a gamble that we did not want to take. We talked to people before we even purchased the property. After this, hopefully we will find something in writing.”
“Rodeos, I presume, are seasonal activities,” commented Commissioner Mike Wheeler. “Unless they move the arenas or start shutting things down, they will continue. My inclination is to grandfather them in.”
“I agree with commissioner Wheeler that I don’t feel that it is necessary to require them to obtain a CUP to continue the activities they’re already doing,” agreed Commissioner Jeff Masterson.
With that, the commission moved to grandfather-in the Cowboy Church and to allow them to continue on with their current activities.
The commission further added a legal nonconforming use of property letter would be sent to the property owner. The motion was carried 3-0 with one abstention.
The commission also heard:
• an update from the Willis Health Insurance.
• information on the upcoming detention position upon the retirement of Dennis Phillips.
• the quarterly investment of the Idle Funds Report.
• a quarterly report on the county.
• an overview of the Butler County Budget.