Archive for Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Retreat center files lawsuit against county

November 28, 2001

Operators of a controversial camp in western Leavenworth County filed a lawsuit Monday, Nov. 26, asking a district judge to reverse a recent Leavenworth County Commission decision that ultimately denied them a permit to operate.

Earth Rising Inc., operator of Gaea Retreat Center, filed the lawsuit in Leavenworth County District Court seeking the reversal of a decision that denied it a special-use permit.

The nonprofit organization is also seeking more than $50,000 to cover attorney fees and lost revenue. The lawsuit names the commissioners, the Leavenworth Planning Commission and the county as defendants in the case.

Earth Rising officials declined to comment on the case.

The 170-acre camp, 10 miles north of Tonganoxie, has been a source of controversy among community residents because of certain events the camp hosts.

In the past, the camp has hosted such groups as the Midwest Male Naturist Gathering, a nudist gathering, and the Heartland Pagan Festival.

On Thursday, Nov. 25, the commissioners denied 2 to 1 the camp's application for a special-use permit, although Planning Director Joe Zoellner recommended approval.

During that meeting, several neighboring residents questioned the camp's activities saying they were ripe for illegal sexual activities, although they offered no evidence of such activities.

The allegations of illegal activity were never substantiated through police or court records. Camp representatives have denied the accusations.

The Planning Commission weeks earlier denied the special use permit 5 to 2, after hearing the same argument from county residents.

The lawsuit asks the court to review both decisions and seeks an immediate injunction so the camp can continue operating until the case is settled.

The lawsuit claims the camp expects to lose thousands of dollars in rental fees if it cannot continue its operations.

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