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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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1/26/2010 12:38:00 AM
Earth Park must take down Mago statue (with video)
Video length 2 minutes
Cottonwood Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to the 11 conditions...
Bill Ring, a Flagstaff land use attorney, smoothly presented a case for the Mago Earth Park to show that the organization was willing to work with the city. He admitted that the tall Mother Earth statue has become,
Bill Ring, a Flagstaff land use attorney, smoothly presented a case for the Mago Earth Park to show that the organization was willing to work with the city. He admitted that the tall Mother Earth statue has become, "a lighting rod for contention. We understand that."
VVN/Jon Pelletier
Cottonwood resident Steve Harris speaks out in opposition to the Mago Mother Earth statue.
Cottonwood resident Steve Harris speaks out in opposition to the Mago Mother Earth statue.
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The Cottonwood Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to remove the Mago statue within 30 days at Monday night's public hearing.
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Jon Hutchinson
Staff Reporter

COTTONWOOD -- An attorney for the Tao Fellowship attempted to craft a compromise Monday night. That option may play out, but first the towering Mago Statue must come down. The city will extend a conditional use permit for six months, but if the Fellowship does not bring back a master plan for their ultimate uses during that time, the permit will be terminated.

Bill Ring, a Flagstaff land use attorney, smoothly presented a case for the Mago Earth Park to show that the organization was willing to work with the city. He admitted that the tall Mother Earth statue has become, "a lighting rod for contention. We understand that."

In the end, however, the Cottonwood Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously that the statue must be removed within 30 days. The hearing was conducted before a crowd of 500 to 600 people in the Mingus Union High School auditorium.

Security was important to the city. Five officers from the Cottonwood Police Department were supported by another five Yavapai County deputies. Board Chairman Ed Kiyler was firm, "I will be running the meeting." When people spoke out of turn or clapped too long, Kiyler rapped his gavel for quiet.

Ring said the original 39-foot statue with a 9-foot, 10-inch base was proportional from an aesthetic standpoint. Still, the compromise he proposed was to retire the large Mago statue and replace it with one that would stand 9-feet tall on a 9-foot pedestal. He said the total height of the new statue would rise to only 18 feet, fitting within Cottonwood's building height limit in most zones of 35-foot.

Still the attorney compared the existing statue height with the neighboring Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. A reading of the city ordinance, according to Ring, showed that religious institutions are exempt from the height standard.

When two hours of public comment was completed, some of the commissioners questioned the apparent conflicts. They questioned how the proportion was appropriate in the larger statue, but not in the smaller proposal. They also questioned the matter about religious exemptions, when the Fellowship has indicated its ultimate plan might include a hotel, restaurant and gift shop.

In the end, the commission unanimously approved a recommendation of the planning director to remove the 50-foot Mago statue within 30-days. Any new statue would have to be presented to and considered by the Planning Commission as a separate matter. It would not be an automatic replacement for the larger statue by Monday's actions.

The commission did grant an extension of time for the Conditional Use Permit for six months. During that time, the Tao Fellowship must produce a development master plan or face termination of the use permit. Ring had proposed that the Tao Fellowship be given one year to produce the plan, not six months.

Board Chairman Ed Kiyler says the city has been asking the group for three years to put together a master plan, "Now you want another year?" he asked.

The other statues must be moved behind the property line setback and be given proper landscape screening along Bill Gray Road. Community Development Director George Gehlert said he would not be so concerned about the reflective gold paint on those statues if the park is properly screened. Reflective paint is discouraged by the city.

A spokeswoman for the Tao Fellowship, Jennifer Sing, stated briefly, "It was very gracious for the commissioners to spend this much time. We will continue to go forward to seek the best way we can to work together that will serve both us and the community."

Asked whether the Fellowship will appeal the proposal to the City Council, Sing said, "We are not sure."

The commission probably heard 100 comments from the public, alternating between those against the proposal and those in favor of the Earth Park plan.

Many invoked their own religious beliefs in opposing the park, like Andy Ericson: "We have Judeo-Christian values. This is not representative of the majority of the people."

One man called the statue "a graven image."

Some claimed the height was out of place.

Mark Avery and other opponents said the Mago Earth Park must follow the same conditions to which other businesses must adhere. "This is a for-profit business. If you allow a 50-foot sign to attract business here, then you should allow a hardware store to have a 50-foot hammer."

Steve Harris of Cottonwood described himself as a native: "This does not fit in with the general plan."

Judy Love said, "Only the P&Z would be gullible enough to allow them free advertising to bring people into the compound. How much did they pay for this permit? What a slap in the face to the church across the street."

Linda Chamberlain said we should follow Soloman's wisdom and consider the wishes of registered voters of Cottonwood.

Tammy Ontiveros: "They need to be placed on a short leash."

Russel Cummings said, "I believe in black and white. I don't want no statue."

Supporters said it will be a "community asset and attract tourists to Cottonwood." One who has worked in the park said 150-170 people visited, "half of them are tourists."

Many said the park is intended to assure harmony. Betty Mackie said the Earth Park "represents "harmony; it fits in with the beauty of the nature here."

Compromise, said another, is what Mago is all about.

Micheal McEuen of Mesa said he has known Mr. Lee for years and "there is no more generous person."

Another supporter of the large Mago said that the commission should look at the "bigger picture. It reminds me of the pain and suffering we are inflicting on each other. I have donated money to this project, where people can come together in harmony."

Janelle Moore of Mesa compared Mago's blue eyes with the color of the sky. "I hope for peace, a place to practice my spirituality."

"This is about freedom of speech. We are a melting pot. Mago is a place where everyone can come together," said Wendy Murray. "This is about freedom of speech. We are a melting pot. Mago is a place where everyone can come together."

Taylor Waste
Related Stories:
• Mago statue comes down (with video)
• Deadline passes for Mago appeal to City Council
• Mago Retreat hearing delayed
• Letter: Mago statue ruins otherwise excellent scenery
• Letter: Constitution has taken a beating in Cottonwood
• Letter: Great job by Cottonwood P&Z
• Tao Fellowship faces land use violations
• Editorial: Fresh start badly needed on Mago Earth Park project
• Letter: Let’s show up, step up, and let our ideas be heard
• Letter: Waxing poetic on Mago statue
• Letter: Thank you, Cottonwood, for making right decision
• Mago Statue showdown: City director recommends statue removal
• Mago hearing date moved to Jan. 25
• Mago zoning matter draws a huge crowd but no resolution
• Mago Retreat facing county zoning violation

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Article comment by: The Bird of AZ

Well, I hope all you out there are happy now. Now we know that the City of Cottonwood is not interested in helping our economy or dispelling racism and religious intolerance. I can't wait to vote those bozos out of their positions and put something more intelligent and less redneck in.

Posted: Monday, February 8, 2010
Article comment by: N Jae

The question now is, will they continue to violate the law?

Posted: Saturday, February 6, 2010
Article comment by: naja ames

Deadline is Feb. 24th. Let's see if they truely are about peace and harmony

Posted: Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Article comment by: Will Walden

@Joy Lee ... aw shucks ma'am, if you're going to quote scripture at me, or the sayings of Buddha, all I can do is reply with fact and recorded history ... so here goes ... as I have written in another thread elsewhere I now post my comments here also ...

Just so YOU know what YOU are talking about - MAGO is NOT a religion!!! Everything related to the statue is commercial in nature. And as for what Mago stands for ... why not look up the real meanings like I did? See below ... the only reference is to a Mythological Goddess and that does not make it a religious relic. Now the Church across the street IS a legitimate religious organization and deserves some respect, especially when bogus groups use the "religion" card to try and trump proper procedures.


Mago may refer to:

* Mago (genus), a genus of jumping spiders
* Mago, the Xian (Taoism) in East Asia


* Mago Island, an island in Fiji
* Mago, Minorca, a Carthaginian and later Roman town in Minorca
* Mago, Russia, a townlet in Russia
* Mago National Park, in southwest Ethiopia
o Mount Mago a mountain in Mago National Park, southwest Ethiopia
o Mago River a tributary of the Omo river in Mago National Park, southwest Ethiopia


* Mago (agricultural writer), a Carthaginian writer quoted and drawn on by Columella
* Mago, a Japanese arcade game player.
* Mago (Barcid)(243 BCE - 203 BCE), a Carthaginian general, son of Hamilcar Barca and brother of Hannibal
* Mago (fleet commander),(died 383 BCE), a Carthaginian fleet commander, active in Sicily
* Mago (general), a Carthaginian general active in Sicily in the mid 4th century BCE
* Mago (goddess), a goddess in Korean mythology
* The Magonids of the ruling dynasty of Carthage from 550 BCE to 340 BCE
o Mago I of Carthage (reigned c.550-c.530 BCE)
o Mago II of Carthage (reigned 396-375 BCE)
o Mago III of Carthage (reigned 375-344 BCE)
* Andrea Bargnani known as "Il Mago" (1985 -) Italian basketball player
* Francisco Mago Leccia "Mago")(1931 - 2004), Venezuelan ichthyologist
* Hannibal Mago (died 406 BCE) Carthaginian Shofet and General

In entertainment:

* Mago (album), a 2007 Jazz album by Billy Martin and John Medeski
* Mägo de Oz, a Celtic folk metal band from Spain
* Nurarihyon no Mago, a manga series

Posted: Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Article comment by: Renet Tyree

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit let him turn away from evil and do good let him seek peace and pursue it.
1 Peter 3:8-11 ESV

Posted: Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Article comment by: Danny Smith

Any one interested in knowing about this just pick up the new Rolling Stone for Feb. 18. It blasts them out of the water and exposes all just for a profit. It even has a picture of the statue in Cottonwood. The only reason it exists is to make money. It is as far from a religion as you can get.

Posted: Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Article comment by: John Dale

It’s almost comical how Ilchi follwers keep on bringing up Buddha and Christ and even US Constitution. Isn’t Ilchi’s teaching enough for you? This was never about religion, or constitution. Don’t even try to throw in Christ, Buddha and US constitution into this mix. Ilchi’s Earth Park violated the lawful process that should have been followed. Ilchi’s Earth Park violated agreement with Cottonwood. Now you are trying to insult democratic process because the result of P&Z hearing did not agree with your organization’s interests?

Posted: Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Article comment by: Kathy Atencio

Love your neighbor as yourself. Matt 19:19,Gal 5:14 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12 This is my command: Love each other John 15:17 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35 Love is patient, love is kind. 1 Cor 13:4 It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered. 1 Cor 13:5 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1Cor 13:6-8

Posted: Monday, February 1, 2010
Article comment by: Joy Lee

@Will Walden ...

Here is Buddha's teaching from Kalama Sutta.

Kalamas told Buddha " ... whenever we listen to holy men and priests,
we are full of doubt and waver in uncertainty as to who is speaking truth, who falsehood."

Buddha replied "Do not be misled by those proficient in quoting scripture, nor by logic or inference, nor after reflection on mere opinion or theory, nor blindly out of a respect for a holy man or priest. ONLY when you know for yourselves : such teachings are good, they cause no harm, they are accepted by the wise, when performed they produce positive benefits and happiness - then, Kalamas, you may accept and abide in them...

I hope the small statue of Buddha beside your pnd helps you be enlightened
then you will know for yourself so that you can see the Truth and find liberation for yourself.
Then I hope you can share and communicate the enlightenment with people you love, with people around you to brighten Cottonwood.

With love,
Bup Hae
(Bup Hae is my Buddhist name meaning Ocean of Dharma)

P.S. The place which needs more tourism is Cottonwood not San Francisco Bay in my humble opinion.

Posted: Sunday, January 31, 2010
Article comment by: Uschie Jourdan

Has anyone ever wondered why the huge church was allowed to be built so close to the highway, thereby blocking much of the beautiful red rocks views? Hasn't anyone ever thought that if the church would have been painted in more of an "earth tone" color, it might have blended much better with the environment and wouldn't be seen from all over the Valley? Everyone seems much too focused on the Mago statue.

Posted: Saturday, January 30, 2010
Article comment by: Dawn Evans

I am getting a more clear picture, the more comments i read- Yes, there SHOULD be regulations on height and reflectiveness. I grew up in Cottonwood, and think that i would be very upset at something blocking the amazing views of the most magical place on Earth. I also agree with the gentleman who said something about carbon footprint.. jeez! all that plastic, none of it recycled? On the other hand, I have to applaud the diversity of such a thing coming into Cottonwood.. and I pray it is actually FOR the right reasons, not the money as some have stated. I will also say, I'm ashamed of some of the statements i have heard come down the line, the stark ignorance of those who claim their God's Law is the ONLY thing. Those are the people who made a bad mark on me growing up. I now Live in New England, and Pride myself on my Home Town, and visit often, having my family still be there. I think a compromise should be reached. If the Tao organization is of true peace nature, they will be willing to move Mago, and/or build a smaller one. If the contrary occurs- you all now the truth. I applaud the Catholics for being in regulation. Thank you, but please - don't make this a religion issue- CHURCH AND STATE DON'T MIX. Thank you.. Dawn Evans of Sycamore Canyon Road.

Posted: Saturday, January 30, 2010
Article comment by: Will Walden

@Joy Lee ... so you live in San francisco but you come out here to do ... what? Well ... as a resident of Cottonwood I have some answers to a couple of your questions:

Does it really matter where the Mago Statue is erected ?

Yes it does. Why not have it at the Presidio? Or how about at the view point of the Golden Gate Bridge in Sausalito where everyone crossing the bridge can see it? Or better yet ... Alcatraz! Now that's a GREAT idea ... that's an area that's been lacking some tourism.

Does it really matter how big the statue is ?
Of course it does! I have a small statue of Buddha beside my pnd ... the statue is half a foot high and on my own property, and not visible from the road. Nobody complains - wonder why.

Posted: Friday, January 29, 2010
Article comment by: John Baker

Renet, Chill out! This has nothing to do with religion or the Catholic church. It has to do with the fact that the Tao fellowship exceeded it's rights under the conditional use permit that was issued to it. They have failed over three years to to complete a master plan and they continue to change their minds on what it is they want to do. For instance, the building on the park site was initially intended to be a "caretakers residence" then it was a greeting center and now it's a transportation pickup station.
The fellowship needs to abide by the same rules as the church across the street (which did go trough all the required procedures including public comment) or any other business or project weather it is a church or not.
Additionally, I have noticed that the current property does not have enough parking and some of the guests and "volunteers" seem to be using the church parking across the street to access this facility. I am sure the church would not complain at this point however, the Mago park should refrain from using other peoples property to promote their business.

Posted: Friday, January 29, 2010
Article comment by: Joy Lee

I live in San Francisco Bay Area and flew on Monday Jan 25th to attend the public hearing to support Mago Statue beacuse I left my heart at Mago Earth Park in Cottonwood ever since I saw the Mago Statue on the day of Mago Earth Park Opening Ceremony held on Dec 16th last year.

I was touched by the speeches by the people who support Mago, who care about Earth, who want to create harmony and peace on Earth. They came from local Arizona as well as from all over the USA just like me.

At the same time my heart was broken by the speeches by local residents who opposed to Mago Statue by their closed mind with rudeness, extreme selfishness charged with anger. It was shockingly striking contrast compared to the beauty of Cottonwood nature.

For those who mentioned Bible and God here is part of Lord's Prayer,
'Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy name.

Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On Earth as it is in heaven.'

On the returning flight the next day I was praying for Cottonwood residents.
Please help them open their eyes and see the bigger world God has given us.
Please help them open their heart and find God within them and feel what God truly want us to do.
Be free from preconception and little ego.
Please allow them to share the beautiful Cottonwood with the whole world so that they be remembered proudly by their children and grandchildren in the many generations to come.

Does it really matter where the Mago Statue is erected ?
Does it really matter how big the statue is ?

It matters that everyone is awakened who they are and where they came from.
It matters that everyone restores true humaneness.

I hope this Mago Statue brought some awareness to raise human consciousness in Cottonwood and
will do the same to humanity on Earth.

Thy will be done,
On Earth as it is in heaven.

We all came from one God and are made of love and joy.

I love you all.

Posted: Thursday, January 28, 2010
Article comment by: Kayla Islas

OK... I keep hearing I've lived her for 8 years or 20 or 24 or whatever... I have lived here ALL my LIFE!!! Born in this hospital and raised in this town that USE to be small.... I dont need a statue representing peace and harmony... thanks but I've not only done just fine but just GREAT without it!! Like I said before.. if you want that statue go somewhere else.. it does NOT belong in Cottonwood, AZ.

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