If you've visited Richmond, Indiana via interstate 70 recently, it's likely you've seen a new addition to our most prominent landmarks: a 110-foot vinyl-sided cross right next to the highway exit on our east side. The cross was erected at a cost of US$150,000 by New Creations Chapel, Inc., which has a website dedicated to the project's history and progress. Their hope is that it "will give hope, direction, light from above, and encouragement to all those people traveling Interstate 70 and passing New Creations Chapel."
Richmond already has a number of issues with public perception when it comes to tourism and first impressions. All discussions of religion and symbology aside, I think this new fixture probably doesn't help with that. But the main question that came up in the casual discussions I've had with people about it is "how does such a thing go up without the community having any input on it?" To answer that question I contacted Scott Zimmerman, who works as a City Planner with the City of Richmond.
Here's what he had to say:
Under our Zoning Code, R-1 One-Family Residence District allows as Principal
Permitted Uses Institutional uses including churches. That would include all
church uses unless specifically prohibited or further regulated somewhere in
code. Under our sign code, things like flags and monuments are not
considered signs. If this were part of a church building (steeple) it would
be regulated. This is also why the Ford dealership has a similarly large
flag pole which has no review through our office.
The only permit required was an Improvement Location Permit (ILP) verifying
setbacks and zoning.
So, there you have it. My understanding is that the zoning code is changing soon in a way that might require a little more oversight from the City before such large items are put up, but I don't know the details of that.
What do you think about a symbol like this as an introduction to Richmond for travelers, visitors and residents? Is it a good and appropriate use of $150,000?