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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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2/3/2010 6:03:00 PM
Tao Fellowship faces land use violations
Ilchi Lee
Ilchi Lee

Jon Hutchinson
Staff Reporter


PRESCOTT -- A hearing has been set Feb. 12 in Prescott to determine whether the Tao Fellowship Mago Retreat Center at the north end of Bill Gray Road has been misusing its 160-acre religious retreat for commercial purposes.

The hearings are held only once each month in Prescott on a number of pending cases. An appointed hearing officer will act as a judge in the land-use case.

Six notices of violation have been sent by the county to the Tao Fellowship, one notice for each of the land parcels involved within its 160-acre tract.

Boyce McDonald, Supervisor of the County Land Use Enforcement office, explains that many cases are never heard by the hearing officer. He says people often do not understand code requirements and are willing to come into compliance when they are explained. About 8 percent of cases involve a settlement and in 2 percent of the cases, they will go to the officer-like trial in which a county official presents the law of the case and a representative, or the accused, offers a defense.

McDonald says Friday he met with representatives of the Tao Fellowship, led by land use attorney Bill Ring, who already represented the organization at Cottonwood's Planning and Zoning meeting Jan. 25 at Mingus Union High School.

McDonald says that such cases are responses to a complaint from a person or people, "who are directly impacted by an activity," often by neighbors.

He explains that the Mago Retreat Center has now removed its online web site advertising the center's amenities, but when the complaint was filed it included a laundry list of prices for various retreat services and for the rental of rooms.

Unlike a commercial business, the retreat has a use permit to allow a religious institution and has a tax free status.

According to the former web page, a one-day Wellness retreat, for example, costs $300 with accommodation and meals. A Brain Aging retreat is listed for $580 per couple. There were also listings for Corporate retreats, rejuvenation retreats and the like.

A Texas Dahn Yoga members' blog describes the center this way:

"Tao Fellowship - Mago Garden is located on 160 exquisite high-desert acres in the heart of Coconino National Forest."

"Mago Garden features spectacular mountain views, 126 casita-style guest rooms (for 250 guests), swimming pool and outdoor Jacuzzi hot spa, three vegetarian buffet meals daily, hiking trails, meditation areas, juniper and pine forest, three gardens (healing, herbs and organic), large lake, ponds, and a warm staff."

"Mago Garden offers guests a variety of activities: private healing sessions, exercise classes, health programs, horseback-riding meditation, rock saunas, and guided group tours of Tao Fellowship - Mago Garden's vortexes, Sedona area vortexes and sites, and Northern Arizona (especially the Grand Canyon)." 

"Mago Garden is ideal for having special occasions - be it a group/corporate retreat, rejuvenation vacation (for individuals, couples and families), family reunion, wedding and honeymoon."

According to Yavapai County, a hearing officer's "judgment will include information about what the defendant must do to be in compliance with the Planning and Zoning Ordinance or the Yavapai County Building Codes, including the date by which the defendant must be in compliance, information about the civil penalties that have been set, and what will happen if the defendant is not in compliance by the date given in the judgment. If the defendant comes into compliance by the date listed in the judgment, the Hearing Officer may set aside the civil penalties."

A spokeswoman for the Tao Fellowship, Jennifer Sing, did not wish respond to the complaint. She said, "Due to the fact that this issue is still in the administrative process we feel it is better not to comment at this time."

The Sedona Mago Retreat Center is one of the venues for the training of the disciplines taught by Master Ilchi Lee.

Taylor Waste
Related Stories:
• Tao Fellowship hearing set Tuesday in Prescott
• Tao Fellowship hearing delayed again, now set for October
• Earth Park must take down Mago statue (with video)


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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, February 4, 2010
Article comment by: Peter, Yavapai County

John, that sounds more like a tax violation, if true. I assume that the Tao Fellowship Corporation is legally able to accept donations - that's what they do. It might put everyone at ease if the managers at the TFC opened up their books (which are public record) and help us all to understand just how legal they are. (Please note that the Feb. 12 hearing has been moved to March 12 at their attorney, Bill Ring's request.)

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

The zoning board should investigate why all Ilchi's organization training fees are paid as "Donation" to Ilchi's non-profit organizations -
Dahn Institute and Tao Fellowship.

Why all their receipts have small print "We have not provided you with any goods or services for this contributions" while these were IN FACT fees for training????




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