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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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12/21/2009 8:44:00 PM
Mago zoning matter draws a huge crowd but no resolution
VVN/Clayton Peterson
A huge overflow crowd converged on the Cottonwood Public Safety building Monday to voice their feelings on the Mago Earth Park statue.
VVN/Clayton Peterson A huge overflow crowd converged on the Cottonwood Public Safety building Monday to voice their feelings on the Mago Earth Park statue.
VVN/Clayton Peterson
The overflow crowd left many people unable to take part in Monday's meeting. These people were packed into the hallway outside the meeting room.
VVN/Clayton Peterson The overflow crowd left many people unable to take part in Monday's meeting. These people were packed into the hallway outside the meeting room.

Jon Hutchinson
Staff Reporter

COTTONWOOD -- Last week, the Cottonwood city administration moved its planning commission meeting out of the small City Council chambers to hear the case of the Mago Earth Park and its 50-foot statue.

Monday night, the Planning Commission meeting was moved to the city's Public Safety building on Sixth Street.

Even that proved to be inadequate.

The meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m., but by 5:30, all parking places had been taken and Cottonwood Police were no longer allowing any more people to enter the meeting room. The room, with a capacity of 160, already had a capacity crowd that included both sides of the issue.

As the hour of the meeting approached, the halls of the fire and police building were filled and more people stood in the cold outside the building.

It became a disgruntled and divided group. While the audience inside the meeting hall was content to watch the proceedings, those in the hall and outside buzzed with loud chatter. The four police officers that were on hand for crowd control grew to eight before the end of the meeting.

The first order of business for the commission was to continue a design review application for a Dollar General store proposed at the southeast corner of Main Street and East Cherry Street. The commission had not seen enough detail in November. During this hearing, there was little more satisfaction. The commission also wanted to see a representative of the chain, not just an agent for the contracting company that hoped to lease the future building to the operation. That agent told the commission some policy issues were not negotiable with Dollar General.

At one point, Chairman Ed Kiyler stopped the meeting and walked into the hall to quiet a portion of the crowd that had broken into a round of "God Bless America."

"Ladies and gentleman, this is not choir practice," he told them.

The Commission could make no progress on the Dollar General application while clearly distracted by the restless crowd. They tabled that issue until the next meeting.

But, before the Mago Earth Park question could be called, Commissioner Diane Lovett moved that the item be tabled until the commission could find a larger facility so that everyone could be heard. She also suggested a special commission meeting be scheduled exclusively for the Mago Earth Park debate.

Both issues were unanimously approved by the commission.

The crowd in the hall, listening by loud speakers placed there, cheered that news and began to move to their cars.

Afterward, City Manager Doug Bartosh said this issue is probably the most controversial to come before the city. He worried that the issue may not be just a religious one, but may have racial overtones as well. "I thought this would be a big enough room," said Bartosh.

City officials may consider approaching Mingus Union High School for the use of its large auditorium to accommodate the audience.

So, no decision on the Mago conditional use permit and design review was forthcoming. That decision might have to wait until the next Planning Commission meeting, in January, if no date is set earlier.

Meanwhile, the statue placement remains "temporary" pending a commission review.

Taylor Waste
Related Stories:
• Earth Park must take down Mago statue (with video)
• Lighting proposed at Mago Statue and Park
• Letter: Why a permanent statue with a temporary permit?
• Letter: Let Sedona have the statue
• Letter: Idol only takes away from God’s beauty
• Letter: City Council needs to pay attention to Cottonwood’s citizens’ voices
• Letter: Statue is embarrassing, ugly, tasteless and tacky
• Letter: The Soul of Mother Earth a blessing to Cottonwood
• Letter: We must be accepting of other ideas and beliefs
• Letter: We in this country have turned away from God
• Letter: Can’t wait to see the statue for myself
• Letter: Mago folks have incrementally bamboozled the city of Cottonwood
• Tall order of business: Mago Earth Park and statue face planning review Monday
• Column: Cottonwood can take pride in becoming a model of an awakened consciousness
• Video: Mago Celebration
• Gallery: Mago Earth Park Dedication
• Mago statue a towering presence in Verde Valley

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, January 29, 2010
Article comment by: Peter Nelson

Christopher, IF religion were involved, you might be correct. What was finally realized by the Commission and by the lawyer for the Sedona Mago Retreat resort, (Bill Ring of Flagstaff), was that this issue has nothing to do with religion it is simply a land use issue. Had the Commission denied the permit on religious grounds, they would have been in dangerous territory but wisely, they did not.

Posted: Thursday, January 28, 2010
Article comment by: Christopher Blackwell

I am afraid the zoning board is going to be in a big legal mess. There is a federal law, The Religious Land Use and Institutionalize Persons Act 2000. this law was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress, by both Democrats and Republicans, by both liberals and religious conservatives. This law was passed expressly to prevent zoning boards from misusing their powers to keep minority religious groups out of neighborhoods. Having given permission and saying the only thing they might adjust was the height of the pedestal, I am afraid they will lose a very expensive lawsuit which the taxpayers will have to pay.

The very Christian demonstration at the meeting suggests that this is really about the fact that the statue is a Pagan Earth goddess.

If the Koreans choose to fight this case, and advertise for donations to help the cause, I am sure they will be able to raise more than enough money to fight and win this case. In almost all cases brought to court, zoning boards have lost to the religious institutions and been forced to pay legal costs of both sides.

Freedom of religion, means all religions, not just the popular ones. As you will note there is no shortage of statues of pagan gods and goddesses, a great many of them on government buildings, since the beginning of this country.

Looks like the statue is here to stay, or there may be a very ugly and losing court fight for the zoning board. It would not be good publicity for Cottonwood.

She appears to be a rather pretty Earth Goddess. Give her time, she may grow on you and attract tourists as well.

Posted: Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Article comment by: A smaller one would work much better

To be honest, I don't see this statue as a religious icon and I don't care what religion it belongs to. I don't conjure up images of a certain race or anything of the sort. A person's skin color isn't going to tell me if someone is a good person or a bad person. None of that is relevant to the statue issue. My problem is with how big it is. Yes, the Catholic church is big, but at the time it was being planned, they were planning to accomodate for growth. Who wants to build a church only to find it's already too small? What's the reasoning in making the Mago statue so big? Being bigger doesn't make it better. It's just plain oversized for the need. It doesn't need to be that big for a park. A smaller one would work much better.

Posted: Saturday, December 26, 2009
Article comment by: Church had proper permits

The church had proper permits before it was built. I agree that the Catholic Church is too big for our little town. However, the church did not manipulate the planning and zoning procedures for their building. The statue was never properly approved. There are no proper permits for its permanent placement in Cottonwood. Am troubled by the Mago people insensitivity to the majority of Verde Valley and Cottonwood residents wishes to have the giant statue disappear.

Posted: Saturday, December 26, 2009
Article comment by: Expired permit = No Statue

Joe, you are wise beyond your years. You give me hope for the future of our community. You hit the nail on the head when you used the term 'proper procedures'. The Cottonwood voters are upset for exactly this reason. The Commission gave the Mago folks a temporary permit which has already expired. Expired permit = No Statue = Proper Procedures.

Posted: Thursday, December 24, 2009
Article comment by: Joe

Well seeing how I'm only 20 years old. I don't know much about zoning, and filling out the proper permits. All I know is, seeing that large church, next to the Mago mother, if anything. Is not a sign of whoes beliefs are bigger, who can build the biggest deitie or representation of thier beliefs. When I seeing the Mago Mother next to that large church I see peace in its self. That two different peoples can come together on the side of a highway in a small town. People just need to sit down and try to get along, and people need to take to proper procedures and try and work this thing out. No need for hostilities, from either side

Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Article comment by: Take down the church first; it's taller AND bigger than the statue

Actually, the church is much taller and bigger than the statue. If the statue "needs" to come down just because of its height, the church should come down first. Anyway, I'm Christian so I've already secured my spot in heaven. and I think nobody has the right to tell the Mago park people to take the statue down. I don't feel threatened and I think there's no need to be so defensive.

Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Article comment by: Shaking my head on this one

This is unbelievable!! The point is: They never filed a single design plan, permit application for said design plan, coz then the citizens of the community and the plan for growth decided by said citizens would be met. They think they are above the law. They are not. This mentality proves they are not about peace, tranquility or coinciding with the surround area/nature etc. Peekaboo, we see you!

Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Article comment by: TLR

Is Cottonwood exempt from The Bill Of Rights???? In case you are not familar with it, or you have forgotten, the VERY FIRST RIGHT "Grants freedom of worship(that means fredom of religion), speech and press; the right to petition the government & to assemble peacefully. I am waiting for the show up. OMG your(not my) President is a Muslim. His religion is different than yours and you all put him in the most powerful position in the world!!! Muslim thinking is to convert the infidel or destroy them.And you are upset by a statue of peace and love of the Earth!!!!! I have seen the statue and yes it is large but so is the Sistine Chapel!!!What ever happened to live and let live. This seems to be a situtation of live and let live as long as you live it MY way!!!!! Were all of you bullies when you were little and just grew up?

Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Article comment by: Do your homework

The more research I do on Ilchi Lee, the more concerned I become that his organizations may be into brainwashing, similar to the way the Moonies operate. I know that sounds ridiculous, but check out some of the web sites I have found (or just Google "Dahn yoga cult" for yourself).

Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Article comment by: LET'S FOCUS ON THE STATUE

Race and/or religion aside, the real issue here is the STATUE and it's height. To me, and many others, it is garish, gaudy, offensive. I feel that we should pit any racial and religious opinions aside -- they are only clouding the issue. People do have a right to practice their own religion, after all, here in America. The issue is the STATUE. Let's stay focused on that. If the statue were smaller, could we not live with that? Also, the zoning and legal issues are something that the Mago Earth Park and Tao Fellowship need to deal with. However, let's not lose sight of the issue: THE STATUE and it's height. THAT is what we (or at least I) oppose. It may be, probably IS, a beautiful park. Some of us may feel that this is a racial or religious issue. Some of us may feel threatened. If so, we do not have to go there! I guess that what I'm saying is let's keep the race/religion issues out of this, and focus on the "problem": the giant too-tall STATUE. Thank you.

Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Article comment by: Ria Rhodes

Earth friends please! Peace, love, and pass the kimchi.

Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Article comment by: Jackson

It is a sad state of affairs when just a few years ago a man was asked to take down a large American flag in Sedona under the guise that it was only used to bring attention to his buisness. He had been flying the flag for as long as I can remember and I was born here. Now we have this incredibly large statue used to do what? Bring attention to a buisness. Sad, sad, sad...

Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Article comment by: Do the right thing

People grow up! This has absolutely nothing to do with religion or the fear of "mother nature" That statue is hideous. Why so big? I think people would have no issue with it if it were ALOT smaller. It needs to go, it is way out of place here. What next? a 40 foot peace sign? The city counsel, mayor and city manager need to get thier heads out of the clouds and the lime light and do the right thing here. Take it down and save face. Think about what is best for your city for a change.

Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Article comment by: Susan

Please refresh me on exactly what the issue is here.It seems to have gone to a direction with nothing at all to do with the statue,but with bigoted opinions re who is allowed to live & practice beliefs & art in our Country. I am shocked at the words some are throwing around,like paganism & idol worship. All I can say is wow! Do you say this because you are so full of hate? You surely can't know what is in the heart of someone else. I'll tell you what is in my heart, sadness with the hate & bigotry in this wonderful little community. With respect,Susan

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