Backyard church still stirring controversy

Myron Holter

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Topeka Code Compliance once again paid a visit to the man who went to jail for refusing to tear his backyard church down. Inspectors were there to take the next step in making sure the job gets done.

A sign reads restricted area.

“He entered my property without my permission,” Myron Holter, owner of church in his backyard said.

Not something you’d see near a church, but this church is different.

“I call this work bench my altar,” Holter said.

All these structures, are what Myron Holter calls his backyard church. It’s been around for about 20-years. While he might view as his holy place, his neighbors don’t.

“These structures have caused them some distress so they contacted us and we found out that they were not done properly or with the proper permits so we are addressing it,” Richard Faulkner, Development Services Director.

Since March, Holter has been told by the city of Topeka he has to tear down three of the structures. The city says they’re not code compliant. Holter had until October 1st to meet the city’s expectations. He didn’t. And ended have to spend about two weeks in jail.

“In jail you have no freedom,” Holter said.

The city is now forcing him to take it down. If he won’t they’ll do it for him and make him pay.

“Now all of this has to come down,” Holter said.

Which is why the city was out today making estimates on how much it is going to cost

“They are going to let me know in the meantime I need some helpful neighbors help me become code compliant,” Holter said.

Holter says he trying to become code compliant but doesn’t agree with how the situation is being handled…

“I need to find a lawyer that is willing to ask the judge because I am planning to appeal,” Holter said. “I’m going to go ahead and start tearing down they ordered me to tear down.”

Even city officials know it isn’t an easy path to walk along.

“Each individual has their rights,” Faulkner said. “Mr. Holter has the right to build the structures. The owners have the right to a clean attractive neighborhood.”

The city tells us it’ll take a few days to total up the cost to tear down Holter’s backyard church. Once they find out, Holter will still have some time to do it himself. If he doesn’t, the city will take care of it and send Holter the bill.

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