west 76 church of Christ

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. --John 8:32

Let Freedom Ring

List of Hardships and Grievances 

To:  All Branson Aldermen, Mayor Best, Planning and Zoning

The West 76 Church of Christ was granted a special use permit to have and to hold church services in a residential neighborhood before we even bought the property at 206 Ellen Street.  Process was followed. 

Many persons agreed that we should have an off-premise sign directing the public and visitors turning off of West 76 Country Blvd. to turn down Ellen Street to the church, after that first meeting.   We were told by planning and zoning to see if we could get a sign on corner of Ellen Street and West 76 Country Blvd.  We did get an off-premise sign on the Ozark Land building.  You approved it and inspected it!  Look in your files for this paperwork.  Rob Burke inspected the sign and signed the inspection paper.  We still have this in our files.  Look for this in your files!  We do have something in writing about a sign.  Why did you change your mind and not continue to keep your word with us as a church when we asked you to?  I am thinking it was because of the over-zealous enforcement of the endless sign ordinances that was started over 30 years ago and only began to be enforced more strongly during the Presley administration.  And now you say we have turned into a  small business!!!   Why did you not let common sense prevail like good old Mayor Schaeffer  did.  He would say that if we’re going to have a church there, we are going to have to have a sign for the public directing them to turn down Ellen Street to get to the church! 

It is also a hardship to have to walk up hill to move the sign truck on and off the strip on cold winter nights.

Most respectfully then, dear Aldermen, Mayor Best, and Planning and Zoning, Joel Hornickel, there was checks and balances in city government back then that kept the impossible, antiquated, outdated sign ordinances in check, and out of everybody’s life.  Please give us life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness again in our lives in this present day government!  If you do this, the economy will start to spin again like it did in the 90’s.

After 60 Minutes Broadcast About Branson 

After this broadcast about Branson in the 90’s I remember many of the entertainers saying on TV in public, that it was this relaxed atmosphere down here that made all of this new growth of new shows possible.  This was in the 90’s.  Most people that I talk to now say it’s the letter of the law, strict enforcement of old, antiquated, impossible sign ordinances, and that this is the most important thing, give-em the letter of the law, and one size fits all in the sign laws.  This stifles church growth and small business growth, which is the life blood of Branson!  From the beginning our church has run a food bank for the poor and downtrodden, and we can’t even have a small real-estate sized sign on 76 directing them to be able to find us! 

The West 76 Church of Christ gave away a tractor trailer load of food, furniture, cleaning supplies, and clothing values at $90,000, starting 5 days after the tornado.  The church worked together with 3 other churches and gave out 268 fifty pound boxes of food to help!!

Somewhere along the line in the years of the Presley administration, we turned into a small business in the minds of those in charge.  Incorrectly we were denied a sign which was our life blood after the tornado.  So now it’s one size fits all with the small businesses and churches, so we lost our Identity!  This is all wrong, and is the heart of the problem.

I remember a news item about 7 or 8 years ago written in the Branson Independent newspaper reading like this:  The city of Branson was asking and wanted to know what the definition of a church was?  Folks, churches should be exempt from business sign ordinances and should have as many signs as they need.

Most respectfully, Aldermen, Mayor Best, and Mr. Hornickel,  you have to use authority higher than Federal, State, and City governments to get to know and understand the definition of a true church.  The word church in the Bible comes from the Greek word Ekklesia which means “the called out..”  Called out of the world to worship Father God through Jesus Christ.  The true church of Christ uses the new testament to do this.  Read Romans 16:16, “ The churches of Christ salute you.”  The Federal government considers us a tax free charity; we sell nothing.  Now, I ask you, what do we have to do with a small business, which sells for a Profit.  In treating us as a small business, you have made a mistake!

We are recognized to be tax free by both the Federal and State governments.  Why don’t you follow the lead and do the same. 

It was determined at our first meeting with you, when you gave us our special use permit that we did not even need a city business license because we sell nothing.  All of our books, tracts, Bibles, food bank gifts are given away free; we sell nothing.  So, you see, by treating us as a small business, denying us a location directional sign pointing down Ellen Street, you have been mistreating us and the public all these years since the Branson tornado.   This is true especially since, at the beginning, you gave it to us in writing when Rob Burke approved and inspected the sign as okay, him being your employee at the date on the inspection paper.

The change in your attitude and you classifying us the same as a small business was all wrong and a bad mistake.  To quote Mayor Presley in a meeting I had in her office along with her secretary taking notes, “Churches are considered to be the same as small businesses.”  Again, most respectfully, one size does not fit all!  It never did and never will! 

What the city of Branson has done to us since the Branson tornado, in regards to signs, has interfered with our freedom of assembly because it’s a hardship for visitors to find us with no directional sign!  We might as well be 500 miles off the strip, with no sign; but really we are just 300 feet off the strip with no directional sign.  Many call us from time to time every Sunday and complain to us, you need a sign, we can’t find you, we have driven past or overshot Ellen Street.  It’s a hardship for visitors to be turning around in service stations, show parking lots, cutting in and out of traffic to turn around so they can try again to find Ellen Street.  All of this grief is in the name of clutter.  It will look cluttered if we give you a sign, has been stated to me by planning and zoning.

Government of the people, for the benefit of the people, and by the people is starting to erode when you deny any church or business a sign that is needed for the pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  No one business or church group should be left out to have a sign, off premise if need be, it should be our right to do so.  It also spins the economy of the city.

A Suggestion as to What is Needed

 Tastefully done tree signs on a pole at all intersections down the strip, where needed, would be ideal to help people find out where they are turning.  A place for banners could be there on tree signs too.   This would spin the economy because most of your tourists love to get out and shop and browse to find the unusual gift to take home. 

One former city attorney has stated to me that since Mayor Schaeffer passed away it has been the systematic eradication of all off premise, small business, and church and directional signs.  By doing this you are taking away and choking them out one by one because you say it will be cluttered with lots of signs.  If there were tree pole directional signs tastefully done it would be beautiful and helpful, and visitors could know where to turn, saving time, money, and cutting down on traffic problems. 

We lost many small businesses during the tornado and now there is no incentive to build back because of the impossible, antiquated, outdated 200 feet apart requirements of impossible sign ordinances.  Kick it all out and leave nobody out to have a sign. 

Also, let a rubber tired trolley go by every show all the way out to Sight and Sound Theatre.  Don’t leave any show out, downtown too. 

Let freedom ring in Branson like it did under the Schaeffer administration.  He had a saying after he studied a problem as he checked its safety out, “Boys, give it to them, because he knew the sign ordinances were impossible!

This whole thing is a hardship on churches and small businesses, and we are asking politely for you to take this off our backs.

It’s also much the same hardship with banners and one-event signs.  Use common sense and let freedom ring in Branson.

It needs to be noted that the present problems with signs was not caused by our good Aldermen, Mayor Best, or Joel Hornickel.  You good people have inherited these problems from many years gone by.  But, please let’s fix it, and leave nobody out of the equation.  Everybody needs to survive!  Let freedom ring!

Jerry A. North

Servant, Minister

West 76 Church of Christ

206 Ellen Street

Branson, MO

417-337-3772 (cell)

 

 

 

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