City Council unanimously approves special use permit for Lifepoint Baptist Church, Tumbleweed Gymnastics can continue to operate in church building

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SAN ANGELO, Texas – San Angelo City Council heard more details on the issue regarding a special use permit for Lifepoint Baptist Church on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.

Then, council voted 7 to 0 in favor of granting a special use permit to Lifepoint Baptist Church with some limitations.

The issues brought forward to council during this meeting stem from a lawsuit that was recently brought against Lifepoint Baptist Church. This lawsuit is opposed to a special use permit for the church to allow Texas Tumbleweeds Gymnastics to operate in a church building.

As we previously reported: A lawsuit against the City of San Angelo, Lifepoint Baptist Church, and Texas Tumbleweeds Gymnastics is expected to be heard in court on June 15th, 2021. Plaintiffs in the suit are seeking $100,000 in damages and are asking that the resolution originally passed in 2019 by the City of San Angelo be declared void.

H.R. Wardlaw admitted during the City Council meeting that he is one of the parties involved in bringing the lawsuit against the church as he addressed the council during public comment. He also introduced a letter that he says the parties involved drafted and sent to Texas Tumbleweed Gymnastics 90 days before they moved into the church stating there would be legal action pursued against the church.

The resolution passed in 2019 can be seen below:

Many others came forward during public comment including the owner of Texas Tumbleweeds Gymnastics, parents of athletes (one traveling from Mertzon), and other residents in the area. Many parents stated that they enjoyed the bible-based ideals that are tied into the gymnastics program.

“They do have certain protections since they are a church,” Theresa James City Attorney for the City of San Angelo said. Meaning, some activities in or held by houses of worship are automatically protected on a federal level. This includes community outreach and educational programs.

However, Lifepoint Baptist Church did apply for a special use permit in 2019 for the gymnastics classes. Again, that permit was approved by the City Council at that time.

According to the City’s records, this is not the first time a special use permit has been discussed for locations in this neighborhood. A list of approved permits can be seen below:

In the lawsuit, traffic was listed as an issue for residents. John James, Planning and Development Services Director for the City of San Angelo shared that City officials went to the location in question at the busiest times and traffic was not driving through the neighborhood. In fact, most cars went “through an alley to Washington Street which is a thoroughfare and has a high volume of traffic anyway.”

“It’s not a huge amount of traffic,” James reiterated.

With any special use permit, anyone who lives within 200 feet of the specific building in the neighborhood are notified. The City did the same thing with this situation in 2019. According to the presentation, these are the responses they received:

James said that a concern brought up by the parties opposed included that this permit given to the church would open the area up to “even more commercial activity,” like retail. But, James said there are limitations in place that would ensure that would not happen. These limitations would be tied specifically to this permit.

Limitations include that if the Lifepoint Baptist Church property is sold, the special use permit is void as well as the following recommendations from City staff.

Watch the full City Council meeting here:

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