Local News

Ringtones to Peal From Pinehurst Steeple

Posted July 18, 2007

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— Church bells soon won't be the only ones ringing from the steeple of The Village Chapel.

The 83-year-old church has agreed to allow Verizon to install a cellular phone antenna inside its steeple once village officials craft an ordinance regulating concealed cell towers. Verizon is helping develop the ordinance, Village Planner Bruce Gould said.

Pinehurst has cell antennas on aging water towers. But they are set to be torn down in the next couple of years, which would leave Pinehurst without cell service.

So, Verizon approached The Village Chapel about using its 77-foot steeple for an antenna. The only taller structure in Pinehurst is the Carolina Hotel.

"That's a wonderful blessing," said the Rev. Glenn Miller, pastor of The Village Chapel. "People are concerned about cell phones and antennas. They are all around us."

Cell phone industry officials estimate antennas are in about 500 church steeples nationwide. A Verizon spokeswoman said the company has 10 "stealth towers" in North Carolina, including some in steeples.

"Stealth towers" can cost up to four times as much as regular towers, the Verizon spokeswoman said, and  nearby residents often consider them unsightly. Other companies have camouflaged antennas as fake trees and clock towers.

The Verizon spokeswoman said the antenna won't pose any danger to The Village Chapel congregation, and there will be no signs of it from outside.

Still, some congregation members opposed the move.

"Something like a transmission tower in God's house just rang wrong with them," church trustee Thomas Melhorn said.

“Are we selling ourselves out commercially? Once they realize that Verizon has nothing to do with the ministry or the independence of the church, that was a non-issue,” Miller said.

The Village Chapel will get monthly payments from Verizon, Melhorn said, but the company asked him not to disclose how much. He said that money would support the church's ministry.

"God wants us to be part of this world. The more we are part of this world, the better able we are to bring His message to the world," he said.


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  • .45 Jul 20, 2007


    There are serious questions as to whether the Sixteenth Amendment was ever legally ratified and without it the federal government does not have the right to tax the people directly without apportionment.

  • Granpaa Jul 19, 2007

    Mr Melhorn explained his church very adequately. I'm trying to fiqure out what god he is talking about.God, of the Bible, through his Son, Jesus Christ, in Romans 12 and John 17 that we are not supposed to be a part of the world. In the world but not part of.He should know that Satan controls the world. There again, perhaps he does in his statement. Don't tax Churches but do tax this nonsense because it is greed and not serving God.

  • elcid89 Jul 19, 2007

    I'm not sure where that tour guide got his or her information. Simply putting a chapel in a building wouldn't render it free from taxation, at least under Federal Law. NY state, county and town law regarding property taxation may hold a different view. I'm not admitted in NY and therefore I know little about the specifics of law there.

    The Trinity case is a tad different from that scenario. In that case, the church owns the land under the building and derives income both from the lease of the land as well as residuals from the developers (i.e. they get a cut of the rental income.) Their initial argument was that since the land was owned by the church, it was an extension of their primary mission and therefore any income derived from it was exempt from taxation.

  • BigUNCFan Jul 19, 2007

    This just does not pass the smell test. It is one of those I can't really explain it but I know it when I see it deals as far as going over the line.

    I think el cid mentioned something that I remember or something similar. I remember being in NYC as a kid in the '80s and seeing huge office buildings with a little chappel. I asked about how this looked strange and the tour guide told me that if there was a church in a building at that time, the whole building was tax free.

    Not sure if this was state, fed or local or if this was true but it always stuck in my mind as a scummy ploy to get out of paying what they should.

    Hopefully things are different now.

  • elcid89 Jul 19, 2007

    Actually, correct the previous posting to read "26 office towers totaling nearly 6 million sq ft of office, retail and manufacturing space, 215 total acres of land in Manhattan and 470 acres of land in Connecticut."

  • elcid89 Jul 19, 2007

    The impetus behind this was scenarios involving churches like Trinity Episcopal in NYC (et al) which own vast expanses of real estate. This real estate was leased to developers to construct a total of 14 or 15 office towers. Net result? Literally hundreds of millions of dollars in income. Arguments were made at a point in time about this income being free from taxation due to the churches use of it to fund charitable works and make grants to other charitable organizations.

    Since the situation was clearly in need of clarification, along came various bodies of policy which collectively created UBIT.

  • elcid89 Jul 19, 2007

    Not entirely accurate, Mac, although the spirit of what you are saying is correct. The determining factor in UBIT is the sourcing of the funds, not their intended use.

    Churches (and other charities) are free to raise funds from a myriad of sources, but only those sources related to their primary activity are freed from taxation under 501(c)(3). As such, were a church to rent out its parking lot, it would then be free to use the funds collected in pursuit of charitable goals, but the fact that the activity which raised the funds is not substantially related to the primary activity of the church subjects those funds to UBIT, at regular rates for corporate taxation.

    Were we to say that the intent determined taxability, every dime raised by such an entity, regardless of source, would then be claimed as exempt by the entity in an attempt to totally avoid taxation.

  • Mac1 Jul 19, 2007

    "funds received by the church from cellular companies CANNOT be deemed a "religious donation" or "charitable contribution," and any proceeds eared by the church(s) ought to be properly and fairly taxed."

    The only people that get to claim charitable contributions (and the accompanying tax break) are the people MAKING the donation, not the church itself. The church's nonprofit status relies on their commitment toward HOW they use the funds they receive, by whatever legal method of fundraising they use.

    The contract with Verizon is no different than a church that rents out its parking lot/parking spaces for a fee. So long as the funds they receive are put towards their charitable efforts or maintenance of the facilities, there's nothing illegal about these activities. I think its fair to say that the church members should decide if this is "appropriate" activity for the church, but if they're fine with it, its certainly not breaking any laws.

  • elcid89 Jul 19, 2007

    Somewhat unrelated, but .45, I am curious as to why you think personal income taxes are illegal, given the Sixteenth Amendment.

  • GulfWarVet Jul 19, 2007

    I kind of agree with elcid89, here, on one point. In their regulation of steeple use for cellular services, funds received by the church from cellular companies CANNOT be deemed a "religious donation" or "charitable contribution," and any proceeds eared by the church(s) ought to be properly and fairly taxed. Either that or ease the restrictions on the erection of new cellular towers... or put Pinehurst back in the 1960s by not allowing ANY cell towers in/around town.