Glorieta 2.0 addressing permit violations

Tags: Glorieta

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP) -- Operators of the Glorieta conference center say they are working to address various environmental and permit violations cited in a letter from the New Mexico county where the facility is located.

Zip lines are among the structures at the Glorieta conference center that have been cited as violating Santa Fe County, N.M., permit ordinances.
The Glorieta 2.0 corporation -- which purchased Glorieta from LifeWay Christian Resources in 2013 -- also says Santa Fe County's notice of violations is "misleading" in its claim there are "hazardous materials" on the 2,400-acre property and incorrect in its allegation the camp is no longer being utilized strictly as a Christian retreat facility.

"One of our biggest concerns is that the tone of the letter from the county is that we're reckless or unsafe," said Jeff Ward, director of finance and administration for Glorieta 2.0. "Nothing's further from the truth. We adhere to the highest safety standards," securing annual inspections from organizations that certify camps and recreational facilities.

The Arkansas Baptist and (Texas) Baptist Standard newsjournals both reported in March that the Santa Fe County Growth Management Department sent Glorieta 2.0 a cease-and-desist letter Feb. 22 citing "unpermitted development," including zip lines, lake slides, diving boards, extreme biking trails and a skeet shooting range. The letter demanded that permit applications be filed within 10 business days and threatened Glorieta 2.0 officers with fines or jail sentences if they failed to comply.

The letter also charged Glorieta had become a "public nuisance" due to garbage heaped on the property, was not lawfully disposing of "hazardous materials" and had violated its zoning for use as a religious retreat center by constructing various recreational facilities.

Ward told Baptist Press Glorieta 2.0 is "working closely" with the county and state to obtain appropriate permits and clean up construction waste and other garbage on the property. Some of the waste has been present since before LifeWay sold Glorieta, he said.

The allegedly "hazardous materials," Ward said, are cardboard boxes and other materials legally classified as hazardous because they are flammable. Glorieta 2.0 has removed 28 truckloads of waste from the property, with plans to remove the rest, he said.

Zip lines and other recreational facilities are "ancillary to running" a Christian retreat center, Ward said, and should not be seen as violations of the facility's zoning as a religious camp.

Ward estimated 10 percent of buildings and other structures are not available for use because of permit issues.

Glorieta 2.0 leaders didn't seek county building permits for certain structures, he said, based on their experience at a sister camp in rural Texas, where the county does not require such permits.

Jose Larrañaga, an administrator with the Santa Fe county Building and Development Services Department, told BP that Glorieta 2.0 is "working with us" to remedy violations and has received extensions on deadlines stipulated in the Feb. 22 letter.

Zip lines, slides, biking trails and other recreational facilities likely will not be approved for use until the fall, Larrañaga said. He added that the county and state have decided to inspect each building at Glorieta to make sure there are no additional safety concerns.

While it "happens often," Larrañaga said, that property owners fail to secure proper construction permits, Glorieta 2.0's situation is "a little bigger deal" because the facility needs to be safe for thousands of guests.

The state and county investigations of Glorieta 2.0 began in response to a complaint filed by an individual whose identity Larrañaga did not reveal to BP.

LifeWay, which still holds Centrifuge and other camps at Glorieta, said in a statement, "LifeWay sold the Glorieta, New Mexico, property in June 2013. Having not owned the property for almost four years, we are not familiar with its day-to-day operations."

A lawsuit alleging LifeWay, Glorieta 2.0, the Southern Baptist Convention and its Executive Committee mishandled the sale of Glorieta was dismissed by a federal judge in 2015. Some aspects of the dismissal are under appeal.

David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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