Too many churches in Stafford, TX!
- L.A. Times
Churches Putting Town Out of Business
By Lianne Hart, Times Staff Writer
July 31, 2006
STAFFORD, Texas ��� They are not the words one expects to hear from a politician or a Southerner, and Leonard Scarcella is both: "Our city has an excessive number of churches."
Scarcella is mayor of this Houston-area community, which has 51 churches and other religious institutions packed into its 7 square miles.
Stafford, population 19,227, is the largest city in Texas without a property tax, and it depends on sales taxes and business fees for revenue. Nonprofits have been attracted by its rapid growth and minimal deed restrictions.
> "It's thrown everything outCity Councilman Cecil Willis said.
> of balance, plus providing
> zero revenue.
> Somebody's got to pay for
> police, fire and schools,"
In one quarter-mile section near the city center, parishioners can choose among 17 churches. There are three small churches in the Quail Ridge Plaza shopping center, and three large brick churches on the street behind it. Down the road, the Evangelical Formosan Church is tucked behind a muffler shop.
"If you can't find religion in Stafford, Texas, you ain't looking hard enough," Bane said.
There are no synagogues in Stafford, but there are religious facilities for Buddhists, Muslims, Chinese Baptists, Filipino Baptists, Spanish-speaking Baptists, and "every other variety of Christian you can imagine," Scarcella said.
"As best as we've been able to determine, the overwhelming majority of people who attend here don't even live in Stafford; they're coming from everywhere else," Willis said. Elsewhere includes Houston, about 15 miles northeast, and nearby Sugar Land.
"I don't hate God. I'm not against America and apple pie," Willis said. "We just have to protect what's left for commercial development."
Lawyers researching ways to stop church growth here will report back to city leaders in about six weeks, Scarcella said.
But Nilda Martinez, who owns a flower shop between two churches, has had enough. "The churches, they're everywhere here," she said. "There are too many; the city should control it. It hurts the city when you don't have enough businesses paying taxes."
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