County agrees to settlement in Sedona spiritual center lawsuit
SEDONA - A recent settlement in a lawsuit between a spiritual retreat center and Yavapai County spells out the commitments both sides must make to resolve the issue.
After Yavapai County officials decided to revoke the conditional use permit issued to Camp Avalon, located off Red Rock Loop near Sedona, the retreat center’s management filed a lawsuit against the county.
Plaintiff Global Community Communications Alliance filed a lawsuit against Yavapai County and the Yavapai County Board of Adjustments, appealing a decision of the Board of Adjustments. They alleged the board, and, therefore, Yavapai County, violated provisions of the Free Exercise of Religion Act, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the first, fifth and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The county denies the allegations as part of the settlement.
Camp Avalon has agreed to submit a site plan with a cover letter to Yavapai County Development Services indicating that the retreat property has been and will continue to be used for religious purposes. The site plan must include the amphitheater or common-gathering areas, camp/retreat locations, ingress and egress and any roads and the cabin being converted for use as an office, future permanent bathrooms, parking facilities and a plan to implement and maintain a wastewater treatment system.
The county agreed to accept and review the site plan submission on an expedited basis and, if the submission contains all of the information called for in the settlement, and complies with the applicable state regulations, issue a permit.
The settlement calls for both Camp Avalon and the county to pay their own legal fees. Camp Avalon is to not advertise on Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, Expedia or similar services, but can list its services in print or on the internet, including on its website, in a manner consistent with listings by other religious, spiritual or church organizations, including a request for a donation.
Camp Avalon’s website, campavalon.org, describes the center as “a spiritual nature retreat where individuals and groups find space to reflect and grow closer to the natural world and their Creator.”
Yavapai County District 3 Supervisor Randy Garrison said the county took action because the camp wasn’t using the facility as set forth in its permit. He also issued a letter, addressed to “concerned citizens,” regarding proposed changes to the county’s Religious Institutions Zoning Ordinance Amendment.
“While we understand that a change to the ordinance may be necessary to maintain compliance with state and federal regulations, I do not believe the proposed changes are beneficial to the residents of Yavapai County,” Garrison wrote. “I have voiced my opposition to Development Services, as well as the Board of Supervisor’s legal counsel. We are requesting this item come back before the board for further discussion in order to guarantee the public’s ability to and right to comment on any proposed developments, including religious institutions.”
Garrison added there are no timelines for those discussions.
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