County responds to lawsuit
In response to a lawsuit, attorneys say Leavenworth County commissioners did nothing wrong when they rejected renewal of a special-use permit for Camp Gaea.
Earth Rising, a not-for-profit corporation in Kansas City, Mo., which owns and operates the camp, filed suit against the county after commissioners voted in October to deny the permit.
After learning of the county's response, John Pearse, president of Earth Rising, said, "We are going to pursue it. We will go to court, if that's what's necessary. If they don't change their minds we have no choice."
The 168-acre camp, which is 10 miles north of Tonganoxie, is a spiritual retreat center.
At the October county commission hearing, neighbors and other county residents spoke against renewal of the special-use permit, specifically complaining of the camp participants' nudity, homosexual activities and pagan rituals.
Neighbors also complained about increases in traffic during camp-event weekends.
After Earth Rising's request for a special-use permit was denied, in November, attorneys for Earth Rising filed a lawsuit in Leavenworth County District Court, saying the county commission's decision violates Kansas land use codes.
Moreover, because of comments made by members of the county's planning and zoning commission regarding the conduct of visitors to the camp and activities at Camp Gaea, the board of directors of Earth Rising also contend their First, Fifth and 14th Amendments rights were violated.