Christian Ministry Receives the Wrath of the Dove Creek Homeowners Association's Attorneys
SAN ANGELO, TX — Friday, The Bishop Street Boot Camp Ranch, a ministry for men trying to turn their lives around, received a letter from attorney James C. Skinner of San Angelo law firm Smith Rose Finley demanding the ministry cease operations on the land the Christian non-profit purchased.
The ministry purchased three tracts of land in the Dove Creek Subdivision southwest of San Angelo in March 2016. The organization is using their land, and the existing home that was there when purchased, to operate the ministry. Currently, up to eight men are housed in the residential home. See “Dove Creek Residents Demand Removal of Home for Wayward Men.”
The Dove Creek Homeowners Association has an Architectural Control Committee that enforces compliance with the association’s by-laws.
Above: The $20,000 gate marks the entrance to the expanded Bishop Street Boot Camp Ranch in the Dove Creek subdivision southwest of San Angelo. The sign pictured above was removed recently, the Boot Camp said, because they were informed it was a lightning rod for the Boot Camp's opposition group. (LIVE! Photo/Joe Hyde)
“The Architectural Control Committee (ACC) hereby demands that the business, the Bishop Street Boot Camp (Ranch), cease to operate on your property and that all non-family members vacate the premises,” Skinner’s letter states. He demanded the actions be taken before July 24, giving the ministry one month to comply.
Skinner warned, “[T]he ACC will pursue other legal remedies available at law and in equity” if his demands were not met.
How the Boot Camp came to purchase the land in the Dove Creek Subdivision facing the exterior perimeter road, Knickerbocker, was because of the ACC’s support for purchase in the first place, argued Leslie Smith, the real estate agent who put the deal together. Smith also serves on the board of directors for the Boot Camp.
According to Smith, when Bishop Street made an offer on the property, that offer was contingent upon the ACC’s approval. She said the February 2016 meeting had at least three witnesses and the full scope of the Boot Camp’s plans for the land was discussed. Those plans included constructing more buildings to house up to 24 people on the tract, contended Bryan Pilgrim, director of the Boot Camp.
With no objections from the ACC, Pilgrim and his board moved forward with the land purchase. The minutes for the ACC meetings are not kept separately, but summaries of their meetings are published in the Dove Creek Gazette, a monthly newsletter mailed and emailed to Dove Creek homeowners. We could not find a copy of the February or March 2016 Gazettes to verify permission was granted.
Some Dove Creek residents became alarmed when a ranch gate was constructed facing Knickerbocker Road naming the spread “Bishop Street Boot Camp Ranch.” An informal meeting was held May 30 that about 80 residents of Dove Creek attended at the home of Theresa Evans. At that meeting, a committee opposing the Boot Camp was formed and a spokeswoman named.
The informal group’s committee publicized the June 7 regularly-scheduled meeting of the Dove Creek Homeowners Association and about 100 residents attended, with standing room only overflowing outside into the gravel parking lot of the Dove Creek VFD building.
Kirk Palmer, president of the homeowners’ association, tried to maintain order as the gathering turned into mob rule, with many demanding action to be taken to shut down the Boot Camp. At the end of the meeting, Palmer promised to consult an attorney about how to proceed shutting it down. There was no vote by the board approving Palmer's proposed action.
Prior to the letter from the ACC’s attorney Friday, the ACC sent a letter with more detailed demands and questions of the Boot Camp. The letter was in response to the receipt of drawings the Boot Camp submitted to the ACC for its proposed additional building. “What you are proposing with the submission of the above mentioned forms is not consistent with the nature of this subdivision and could change the dynamics of our community,” the letter stated.
The letter was signed by just three of the five members of the ACC. Lee and Lisa Campbell, who were attacked at the June 7 meeting for their support of the Boot Camp, did not sign the letter. It was signed by ACC members Mitch Brininstool, his wife, T.J., and Jason Singleton.
On May 25, before the informal group protesting the Boot Camp was organized, Lisa Campbell of the ACC emailed Julie Pilgrim, Bryan’s wife.
“Quit stressing,” she wrote. “Tell Bryan I need a septic permit as soon as possible. Your builder will help you with it. We are all on board. Facebook allows an individual to be an, excuse the French, “a**holes” behind your back. I am done with them. We are not talking with anyone anymore. We will move quickly but I need the septic tank permit. We are with you and we are not the only ones,” Campbell wrote.
Word also reached the Pilgrims that after the June 7 meeting, the sign at the entrance to the Boot Camp was a lightning rod for the detractors of the ministry. The Boot Camp’s board chairman Bryan Johnson, who owns an oil field services company, sent out a welder to cut the words “Bishop Street Boot Camp Ranch” out of the top of the gate. It took four hours to accomplish. “We’re trying to be good neighbors,” Bryan Pilgrim said of the sign removal.
The gate still stands. Attorney Skinner demands the Boot Camp remove it, too. The ACC never approved the gate, he wrote them.
The Dove Creek residents organized to banish the Boot Camp have taken over a closed Facebook group that ACC member Singleton co-maintains. The group, until the controversy of the Boot Camp emerged, was for Dove Creek neighbors to share information about lost and found dogs and cats. Now the group is battle command central to get rid of the Boot Camp. Residents not in agreement with the actions taken against the Boot Camp have been kicked out.
The home address of a Dove Creek resident who reported on the controversy as a news reporter was posted in that group on the same day the group’s co-maintainer sent the author a private message on Facebook. “We will remember,” wrote Kendall Wadsworth in the message to me on Facebook.
Palmer mentioned the closed Facebook group at the June 7 meeting, in response to the mob’s objections to covenants allegedly broken by the Boot Camp.
“A good portion of the posts in that group are about lost dogs running around in our neighborhood. If you go read the covenants and restrictions for Dove Creek, its specifically says you cannot have any animals running loose. Now, you want me to go enforce that? It will be a firestorm out here if we go to that extreme,” Palmer said.
What will the Pilgrims and the Boot Camp do? "Stand here and fight," Pilgrim said. "The Lord wouldn't back down."
Attempts to contact Kirk Palmer or the Campbells were unsuccessful.