Sierra Vista Herald Newspaper

Wednesday - April 27, 2005


To the Editor

The so-called Minutemen Project has been controversial, but when people start questioning the motives of someone like Cochise County Planning and Zoning Director Jim Vlahovich, they have absolutely crossed the line.  His job is to enforce zoning ordinances in Cochise County, and that is all he is trying to do.

As anyone who is acquainted with him can tell you, Jim is a man of integrity.  The rules are the rules and apply equally to everyone.  A certain amount of interpretation may be involved in some instances, but that does not appear to be the case here.

Quite simply, the minister at the Bible College has not applied for the required permit for renting rooms and campsites to the Minutemen.  I live on a one-acre lot; can I allow half a dozen RVs to park in my yard without first gaining approval?  The permitting process takes time because such actions affect other people.  Yes, this is a free country, but that doesn't mean I can do whatever I want regardless of causing harm or infringing on the rights of others.

Does the minister believe he is above the law because of his religious affiliation?  There is that bit in the Holy Bible about rendering unto Caesar, but perhaps those laws don't apply to him, either.  I would urge him to study the example of people of faith on both sides of the border, as outlined in April 18th's front-page Herald/Review article about Sunday's cross border service.

To be sure, this lack of permitting is no reflection on the minutemen themselves. What is revealing, however, are the threats and hate mail directed at Jim Vlahovich because of some perceived fault on his part?  The assumption that he must somehow be "after" the minutemen and the immediate attack response indicate the character of some of the individuals involved in this project.  While those involved in this project continue to deny it is racist, their hateful response - toward a man about whom they apparently know absolutely nothing - is very telling.

Suzanne Kemerly - Palominas




I believe Suzanne Kemerly is simply misguided.  She actually knows very little of the issues because it is so much more than just filing for a Temporary Use Permit so Miracle Valley can have a 7 day revival meeting on its own property.  I believe if Suzanne Kemerly had all the facts, she would never have written such an article to the Editor.

I would like to ask Suzanne Kemerly if her property is exempt from real estate taxes?  Miracle Valley is because it is Church property as are all churches in the State of Arizona are exempt from real estate taxes.  There is a difference between Church property and personal property.  So, "Does the minister believe he is above the law because of his religious affiliation?"   

Miracle Valley has a Mobile Home & RV Park that can accept more than 50 trailers.  Does Suzanne Kemerly have such a trailer park?

Miracle Valley has dormitories and apartments on its campus.  Does Suzanne Kemerly have these types of buildings?

Miracle Valley has nearly 80 acres of property.  Suzanne Kemerly states she has one acre.  Surely anyone can see that there is a vast difference between the two properties.

Strange is it not, that Suzanne Kemerly gives no reflection on the County's, and in particular, Jim Vlahovich's concept of revival meetings held at Miracle Valley.



Planning Director Should Be REMOVED

Nearly 70 years ago, Adolph Hitler was able to take over Germany and then much of Europe primarily due to the laxness of the Christian Church.  America may be following due course.


There are those, particularly in the western part of the United States, who are doing their very best to hinder and stop the Church and the work of God. 


Dr. Harter pushes forward in making his stand for the Church and God.  Will you help him at Miracle Valley


Rev. Harter planned a month-long revival for the Minutemen during the month of April 2005 at his Miracle Valley Church and property.  The result of such, Dr. Harter and Miracle Valley are cited by James Vlahovich, Director of Planning & Zoning Department of Cochise County for not obtaining from his Planning Department a Temporary Use Permit, an Event of Public Use Permit, and a Special Use Permit for Overnight Guest Accommodations. 


Pat Call, a member of the Board of Supervisors of Cochise County, Arizona informs the public that "Rev. Harter thinks he is above the law" and states, "The Reverend Harter has given the County no choice - he has backed the County into a corner and forced them to respond to his flagrant violation." 


Of course, Supervisor Call is referring to Dr. Harter's revival campaign going for the month, which is more than the 7 days allowed as stated by their Regulations.


Usually our government is concerned about the Church's involvement into government's business, however, notice here; it is the county government who is imposing its rules upon the Church as it relates to spiritual matters. 


Just as the government wants separation of Church and State, it is also true vice-versa.  No government has any BUSINESS in matters of the Church and religious institutions.  It should only concern itself with safety issues and not with religious and spiritual issues.  





However, exactly what county regulation(s) is Dr. Harter breaking?  Here it is -




1817.03 Particular Temporary Uses Permitted


Upon obtaining a temporary use permit, the following uses shall be permitted, subject to the following standards and/or other standards imposed by the County Zoning Inspector to mitigate off-site impacts:


F. Events of Public Interest

1.  Permitted in all districts.

2.  Inlcuding, but not limited to, outdoor art and crafts shows and exhibits, outdoor concerts, revivals, and charity events.

3.  Maximum length of temporary use permit shall be 7 consecutive days within any 3-month period.

4.  No structure, equipment or display shall be located within 300 feet of an existing residence.


The word revivals was changed to the color blue so the reader can see that it is included in Events of Public Interest.


Therefore, in order for a local church to have a revival, a Temporary Use Permit is required by the Cochise County Planning & Zoning Department.  The Temporary Use Permit is valid only for a maximum of 7 days. 


A letter dated March 17, 2005 directed to Reverend Harter & Miracle Valley Church and sent from Linda Weiland, Building & Zoning Adminstrator for Cochise County, AZ states the following in her second paragraph -


"You stated that you intended to have a revival at your church in Miracle Valley, and inquired about permit requirements.  (Miracle Valley did not inquire as to whether the P&Z required permits for MV to conduct revival services.  This issue was initially directed to Miracle Valley from Mrs. Weiland.)  I said that since you have a legal, nonconforming church, no permit is required for a revival,and there would be no restriction on a revival, as it is accessory to the use as a church, as long as the revival is contained within the existing church building."  (The words in red are not part of her letter.  It is just a statement refuting that Miracle Valley initiated whether it would need a permit or not from Cochise County Planning & Zoning Department requiring its proposed 'month-long revival meeting.')


However, according to Rev. Ralph Laws (retired Church of God ordained bishop of 50 years service with its International Offices in Cleveland, TN) and Dr. Harter, Mrs. Weiland, after consulting with Mr. Vlahovich, had stated that Miracle Valley could conduct its revival campaign and allow people to stay overnight on its property; however, only to change her mind the next day.  Look at the date of Mr. Vlahovich's memo and learn the real truth of church revivals.


NOTICE - This inter-office memo was sent to Jody Klein, Cochise County Administrator.  It is an original copy of a memo sent by Jim Vlahovich, Planning & Zoning Director of Cochise County, Arizona.  Notice the date listed Mr. Vlahovich's memo and the date listed on Mrs. Weiland's letter to Rev. Harter.  Mr. Vlahovich's letter is dated 5 days after Mrs. Weiland's and thus, reveals the truth of what is really happening in the Planning & Zoning Department, Cochise County, Arizona



Read Jim Vlahovich's Memo and you will realize that Vlahovich is totally against

Church Revivals that are conducted for more than 7 days, and especially Churches conducting  revival services without getting a Temporary Use Permit from Cochise County Planning Department, which includes a fee of $30.  The last I heard, this is still the United States of America and not some heathenistic, God-forsaken, communist country.



James Vlahovich's Memo

(The following is a larger font of the above memo designed for better reading ability.)


From: Vlahovich, Jim

Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2005 2:32 PM

TO: Klein, Jody

Subject: RE: County Administrator's Report

Jody, as way of an initial response to your inquiry and as you are aware, we are not set up to respond to viloations immediately unless they constitute an immediate health and safety concern to the public.  In such cases, we can get a cease and desist court order almost immediately.  I don't see doing this on what may be zoning violations for conducting, say, an event of public interest without a permit.  In these types of cases, we would most likely cite them to the Hearing Officer at the next available hearing.  I have expecially cautioned Pat about events ocurring at the Miracle Valley Bible College.  I'm pretty sure that Rev. Harter is going to have a month-long revival and if he does, we'll cite him and take him to the HO.  Any more immediate action would be inconsistent with how we deal with such violations and would just serve to enflame all concerned.  Our main concerns here are consistency and measured responses to the specific violation at hand.


I'll get with staff on our official response.


James E. Vlahovich

Planning Director

Cochise County Planning Department




 (Pictured above is Sheriff Larry Dever & Dr. Harter)


Miracle Valley Welcomes Border Patrol and County Sheriff's Department


Dr. Harter personally invited those of the Sheriff's Department to feel welcome to come onto the campus of Miracle Valley Bible college whenever they like.  Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever is counted as a dear friend of Dr. Harter.


However, it was very disheartening to Dr. Harter when he learned through recent copies of memos received that Cochise County Planning & Zoning Department had Lt. Al Tomlinson spying daily on activities at Miracle Valley during the month of April and then reporting his purported facts to James Vlahovich and the Cochise County Planning & Zoning Department.


In late March 2005, Dr. Harter met with Lt. Al Tomlinson at the Coronado Elementary School just a few miles from Miracle Valley.


Dr. Harter welcomed Lt. Al Tomlinson and made him feel welcome always to come onto the campus of Miracle Valley whenever he desired to do so.


However, all the while, Dr. Harter's kindness was a slap in the face by Lt. Al Tomlinson, District 2 Commander Cochise County Sheriff's Office, who instead, took advantage of Dr. Harter's kindness and actually was a spy at the request of James Vlahovich, Planning Director and Rick Corley, Zoning Enforcement Officer for the Cochise County Planning & Zoning Department.


Those in the Sheriff's Department I am sure realized that they work for the general public and are not authorized to be spies for the Cochise County Planning & Zoning Department.


It certainly can cause one to lose faith in their police force.


However, a representative of the Sheriff's Department came by Miracle Valley Office and stated that the Lt. Al Tomlinson WAS NOT authorized by the Sheriff's Department to gather and give information regarding Miracle Valley to James Vlahovich, Director of Cochise County Planning & Zoning Department.


The only issue is the fact that Lt. Al Tomlinson called Jim Vlahovich personally during certain evenings of the month.  Also, a memo was sent to Rick Corley with copies going to Jim Vlahovich (Planning Director), Rod Rothrock (Sheriff's Department Commander) , and Britt Hanson (Assisted Cochise County Attorney) signed Lt. Al Tomlinson Cochise County Sheriff's Office.  So it does appear that Al Tomlinson was representing the Cochise County Sheriff's Department when he reported to the Cochise County Planning Department.





The Response of Miracle Valley Bible College & Seminary to Planning Department


This is a very crucial situation for Miracle Valley.  Exactly what the Planning Director is implying is that Miracle Valley Bible College CANNOT house anyone in its dormitory, even though this dormitory provides housing for the President of the Bible College  This includes the following: 

  • any student attending Miracle Valley Bible College and residing on campus
  • any person who volunteers their time to help remodel the campus and needs overnight accommodations
  • any minister or guest who desires overnight lodging at Miracle Valley
  • any person attending Bi-Annual Camp Meetings that needs overnight accommodations
  • any person attending Revivals at Miracle Valley that request overnight accommodatons
  • any person enrolling in special Seminars that include overnight accommodations

The Director informed the Bible College it was violating a local code that prohibits providing Guest Lodging without a permit. 


Particularly, this was in reference to those individuals who participated in the Minuteman Project and who desired overnight accommodations. 


Miracle Valley has housed thousands of people since its inception with Rev. A. A. Allen in 1958.  During the last six years, Miracle Valley has provided housing accommodations in its college dormitories to people attending special functions such as Camp Meetings, Revivals, Seminars, etc.


Meanwhile, Cochise County Zoning Administrator gave Miracle Valley permission to allow the MMP to come to the campus, only later to send a formal letter stating the opposite, no doubt instructed to do so by the Director.


However, everyone must face the same restrictions and ask themselves the question, "What about Family Reunions and Overnight Get-Togethers?" 


Does the Director's interpretation of a local code prohibit "guest lodging without a permit" affect these events as well? 


Perhaps what our county needs is a change of Directors. 


The Word of God declares, "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatsoever ye bind in heaven shall be bound on earth." 


Pray with us regarding this situation. 




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