Devine City Council tables consideration of First Baptist Church property

Members of the Devine City Council and City administration at the Special meeting on March 30. Pictured from left to right are Steve Lopez, David Espinosa, Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez, Mayor Bill Herring, Kathy Wilkins, City Attorney Tom Cate, David Valdez, and Hal Lance.
First Baptist Church Pastor Mike Barrera addressed City Council regarding the church’s property.

The Devine City Council voted unanimously to take no action on the possible purchase of the former Whitfield and Briscoe properties now owned by the First Baptist Church in a Special meeting held Thursday, March 30.
Council members David Espinosa, Hal Lance, Steve Lopez, David Valdez, and Kathy Wilkins were in attendance, as were Mayor Bill Herring, Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez, and City Attorney Tom Cate.
First Baptist Church property
Council immediately went into executive session upon convening the meeting at 12:00 pm. After reconvening in open session at 12:33 pm, Council voted unanimously on a Valdez-Lopez motion to take no action on the purchase, exchange, lease, or value of the former Whitfield and Briscoe properties.
The First Baptist Church purchased the 0.62 acre tract Whitfield property from Shawnee Investments, LLC, several years ago for about $100,000, and recently purchased the 0.83 acre tract of land where the Briscoe house once stood from the Barry family for close to $190,000.
FBC Pastor Mike Barrera addressed Council regarding the properties.
“I would like for you to just consider all the lands in Devine that you could possibly use for a City Hall,” Barrera said. “We as the First Baptist Church are landlocked. We have no other land that we can buy, unless we want to move out of where we are and where we’ve been for 130, 140 years.”
Barrera pointed out that the City and local churches have historically worked well together.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s the Methodist Church, Lutheran Church, Catholic Church, any church in town, if a municipality tries to take that land by eminent domain, we know it’s legal, but is it really ethical to do something like that? Neighbors hurting neighbors? And I would just like for you to take that into consideration.
“…We’re pulling for City Council to pull for us.”
Pastor Robert Nixon, Jr., of Bethel Assembly of God was at the meeting for another matter, but addressed Council in support of Barrera and the FBC.
“I don’t live in the city but I have a church right downtown, and if you guys are looking for a place to go, why don’t y’all just go get right next to my church?” Nixon asked. “Why don’t y’all take Bill Hope’s property there, talk him out of it, give him some money, and build a beautiful City Hall right in downtown Devine?”
Hope’s vacant property is located between the Assembly of God Church at 202 N. Teel Dr., and Devine Food Mart at the intersection of Teel and E. Hondo Ave.
A public hearing to discuss the need for and possible locations of a new City Hall was scheduled for Tuesday, April 11 at 7:00 pm in the George S. Woods Community Center.
Rodriguez later canceled that public hearing, and the issue will instead be discussed at the Regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 18 at 6:00 pm at City Hall.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer