Dove Creek Ministry Defiant: Prepares for Long, Expensive Legal Battle
SAN ANGELO, TX — The Dove Creek Subdivision Homeowners demanded the Christian ministry, Bishop Street Bootcamp Ranch, cease and desist operations on land the ministry owns that is situated inside the subdivision by July 24. As of today, the ministry is still in full operation. The next move may be legal action taken by Dove Creek Homeowners’ attorney James Skinner.
Dove Creek is a subdivision of large, multi-acre tracts outside the city limits on the southwest side of San Angelo.
At issue is whether or not the ministry violates the covenants of the homeowners’ association that disallows commercial businesses and multi-family dwellings. Bishop Street houses about six men in a single-family home that was built on their tract of land acquired in 2016.
Bishop Street proposed to build an additional bunkhouse to house up to 24 men. That, along with a ranch gate facing Knickerbocker Rd. with a metal header sign marking the three-tract property as “Bishop Street Bootcamp Ranch,” had some Dove Creek residents up in arms. Concerned residents organized at the end of May and flooded the June meeting of the Dove Creek Homeowners’ Association meeting to air their complaints.
Homeowners’ stated concerns are centered on two issues: Public safety of having wayward men housed within the subdivision, and the impact the ministry will have on nearby property values, perhaps lowering them.
Kirk Palmer, head of the Homeowners, promised to consult with the Association’s attorney at the June 7 meeting. Skinner’s demand letter was a result.
The attorney for Bishop Street, James Sadler, said he has tried to organize a meeting to work out the differences to no avail. In his response to Skinner, Sadler said the ministry would not cease and desist because the ministry’s operators, Bryan and Julie Pilgrim, were green-lighted by Dove Creek’s Architectural Control Committee to proceed with their plans to establish operations. This was before Bishop Street purchased the property.
Sadler also argued that the covenants do not forbid a business to be established within the subdivision if the entrance to the said business faces Knickerbocker Rd. The Bishop Street gate and sign faces Knickerbocker and the covenants do state exceptions can be made by the ACC. That exception was offered by the ACC in a February 2016 meeting with ACC members, Sadler claimed.
“[P]lease know that if you intend to file suit against my client for injunction and/or damages, we will counterclaim as appropriate for actual and reliance damages in excess of $500,000 against the ACC and the Association,” Sadler wrote. Sadler estimated the purchase price along with improvements to the land performed by Bishop Street over the past year is in the $500,000 range.
There is more. Sadler also suggested the Homeowners’ actions “could very well be in violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Act (RLUIPA).” The federal law forbids governmental bodies from denying holding worship services in one’s home. “The actions of the ACC and your attempt to single out my client concerning its use of Ministry Property is substantially interfering with their religious exercise and right to assembly,” Sadler wrote.
Bishop Street is prepared for a long legal battle. A donor to the ministry who asked not to be identified said pledges of money “in the six-figures range” had already been offered for Bishop Street’s legal defense.
The Dove Creek Homeowners’ Association has about 400 dues-paying members. If legal fees top $100,000 and Bishop Street wins a $500,000 judgment against the Association, the liability per homeowner can exceed $1,500 each.
As of early this week, the sides had not met to hash out their differences to avoid a court battle.
For more on the Bishop Street Bootcamp and Dove Creek, see:
- Bishop Street receives the wrath of Dove Creek's attorney
- Dove Creek residents demand removal of home for wayward men