Colorado church sues city for opposing its sheltering of the homeless

Cars are parked outside the Church of the Rock, also known as the Rock Church, a nondenominational congregation in Castle Rock, Colorado.
Cars are parked outside the Church of the Rock, also known as the Rock Church, a nondenominational congregation in Castle Rock, Colorado. | YouTube/The Rock Church - Castle Rock

A church in Colorado has filed a lawsuit over the city government's reported refusal to approve a shelter for homeless people on the congregation's property.

Church of the Rock, a nondenominational congregation known as The Rock Church, filed the complaint last week against the Town of Castle Rock, according to a report from the Denver-based KMGH-TV.

Church of the Rock accused the town and zoning manager of attempting to prohibit the congregation from giving shelter to "people experiencing temporary homelessness."

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According to the complaint, the church was allowing RVs to camp on the property as a temporary shelter, and "as of November 2021, there were two campers on the property."

"From at least 2019 through November 2023, these campers have been used on an occasional basis to provide overnight shelter for certain temporarily shelter challenged persons participating in the Rock's compassionate care programs," stated the complaint, as quoted by Denver 7 News.

"Castle Rock does not have the right to tell the Rock which vehicles can be parked in its private lot, how long they can be parked there, and whether someone can sit, stand, eat, or sleep in such vehicle."

The church contends it has the right to provide temporary shelter for the homeless via the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

In recent years, the church has expressed an interest in building short-term housing on its property for the less fortunate, having previously filed an application to allow the project.

Last November, Castle Rock officials posted an explainer on the town's website noting that the church must amend its "development plan to allow for additional uses."

The church submitted a pre-application meeting request to discuss a proposal for a "new community worship center with related services; housing options that include guest suites for short-term stays, assisted living, attainable housing for seniors, disabled and/or workforce housing; family wellness center and workspace; and community services, food storage, gardens, maintenance, recreation and parking."

"The church's current zoning does not allow housing. If the church wants to pursue changes to its zoning, it needs to submit a formal application to the Town. Before submitting an application, they would have to hold a public neighborhood meeting," town officials explained.

"At least three public neighborhood meetings would be required as part of the process. Properties within 500 feet of the church's land would receive mailed notices from the church, along with additional notice requirements."

Additionally, local officials said that if they receive such an application, "the review process would take six to nine months or longer."

"Staff would evaluate if the proposal complies with the Town's Comprehensive Master Plan and if it's compatible with adjoining properties, along with reviewing it for any other associated issues," they added.

"Ultimately, the proposal would go to a public hearing at the Planning Commission, which would provide a recommendation to Town Council."

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