Tower owner avoids fines for late work

The owners of the 21-story tower on the former Heritage USA property won’t be fined for failing to demolish it on time because they’ve started the county process that could allow the structure to legally remain, county officials told York County Council on Monday.

But York County wants to see proof that the building is stable and that MorningStar Ministries has a funding plan to renovate it, said Susan Britt, York County’s planning director.

The tower’s fate will be decided in March, when the council will vote whether to approve or deny MorningStar’s request to amend its zoning plan.

MorningStar missed the Jan. 10 demolition date for the tower, a deadline agreed to by the decaying structure’s owner and York County as part of that 2005 plan.

But MorningStar’s founder Rick Joyner said at that time, he didn’t realize the building could be saved. Since then, out-of-state engineers have done extensive tests on the structure and deemed it sound, he said.

Now, MorningStar would like to renovate the tower – the county’s tallest building – and turn it into a retirement center.

Neighbors in the Regent Park area have contacted York County Councilman Paul Lindemann and demanded MorningStar be held to the same standards as other county ordinance violators. Many consider the incomplete structure an eyesore.

“I think they’re mostly upset that the ministry might be getting special treatment,” Lindemann said. “I’ve told them we’re going through the regular process, like any company would.”

The tower had been beset by bad publicity, he said.

Its beginning was mired in scandal: Evangelist Jim Bakker promised donors lifetime use of the building, which was never finished. It has sat empty, with its exterior crumbling, for 20 years.

“I told them not to make a humongous public mockery of the situation,” Lindemann said. “That would bring bad karma, basically, to their area.”

MorningStar will come to the York County planning commission Feb. 26. The commission doesn’t take public comments at its meetings.

York County Council will hold a public hearing on the tower at its March 5 meeting.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog), USA
Jan. 24, 2007
Rebecca Sulock

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This post was last updated: Jan. 24, 2007