FRESNO, California (KSEE) – The pastor of a Fresno church says he’s being unfairly targeted by the City of Fresno.
Adventure Church is in the process of buying the Tower Theatre, the same location the church is renting to hold in-person services. City records show that the theatre owner was fined a total of $750 for a zoning violation, due to the Tower Theatre not being in an area zoned for a church.
“I’m not mad at all. I understand the city’s got a job to do. I understand that they need to, you know, enforce the law that they feel keeps people safe. I would just ask for fair treatment,” said Adventure Church Pastor Anthony Flores.
Flores says he received a citation from the City of Fresno Tuesday with a $250 fine.
“It just looks a little strange to me that I’m the one who gets it right in the middle of trying to purchase the Tower Theatre, that’s all I’m saying,” said Flores.
According to City Attorney Doug Sloan, the city has not issued any citations to any church for violations of emergency orders. Sloan says the fine Adventure Church received was just for the zoning violation. Pastor Flores says, for now, they will move services back online.
“I would love to continue. But our legal counsel right now, they’re investigating some things, they have some questions like why we’re so far, why we are the only church?” said Flores.
Adventure Church was planning to host a concert on Wednesday at the Tower Theatre, but that has since been moved to Cornerstone Church.
Cornerstone Church has been holding in-person services during the pandemic. Pastor Jim Franklin says they were cited in the Spring – but not since.
People’s Church Executive Pastor Brad Liebe says they have held in-person services and have never been cited. He says they’ve been working closely with the city and county.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, we have worked hard, and Peoples Church has always tried to be a vibrant healthy member of this community, not just a church that does its own thing but is part of the community,” said Liebe.
After pushback from the Tower District community over the sale of the Tower Theatre, Mayor Jerry Dyer offered an alternative. He proposed a long-term lease agreement with the City of Fresno to use the Fresno Memorial Auditorium with the condition the church would not buy the Tower Theatre – and the lease agreement would require City Council approval.
“We appreciate that thank you for giving us an opportunity. It just doesn’t fit our needs,” said Flores, declining the offer.
He says they are close to finalizing the sale and are considering legal options.
“If we have to we will take legal action, we don’t want to but if that’s our only choice then we will,” said Flores.
KSEE24 News reached out to Mayor Jerry Dyer for comment – but declined to respond at this time.