Battle of the Big Crosses

There amid the regiment of high-­tension, high-voltage power lines that line the South Beltway, Sagemont Church's brand-new 170-foot cross does not look as impressive as it might if it were situated in more glorious isolation. (The mountaintop Jesus of Rio Janeiro is 45 feet shorter but much more striking.)

Driving up on the Sagemont mega-cross from the west, you don't even see it until you pass Blackhawk Boulevard, and then, there it is, if not exactly lording it over all it surveys in its white-as-ivory splendor, then certainly standing head and most of its shoulders above the power lines.

It is the first of what promises to be three suburban mega-crosses. Last year, Grace Community Church senior pastor Steve Riggle announced plans for 200-footers at each campus of his church — one on the Gulf Freeway in Clear Lake and the other on the North Freeway in The Woodlands.


city councilwoman Sue Lovell

Grace's would be no mere symbols — each is planned to sport a ground-level, orb-like "prayer center" where the faithful can kneel and beseech the Lord for the well-being of our sinful city.

Riggle says these colossal symbols would "mark" Houston as Jesus territory, which makes it sound like He is a pooch and we are his Holy Fire Hydrant.

Sadly for Grace, the Federal Aviation Administration sent the southside scheme back to the drawing board as the church lies in Ellington Field's flight path.

While Grace was licking its wounds, Team Sagemont beat them to the punch, hastily erecting the tall but FAA-approved cross that stands there since the weekend before last.

"They came in with a crane and it was in three pieces, and it just went right up," says Dennis "The Hippie" Ierges. The Hippie and his buddy James Spiller — both homeless — spend a lot of their time in a tiny city park in the very shadows of the Sagemont cross. "I think it might be the biggest cross in the world," he says. (Not quite: There is a 216-footer in Skopje, Macedonia.)

Grace remains undaunted, and they still have plans for both crosses to go up. South Campus pastor Garrett Booth recently told Channel 2 News that even their diminished cross "would be perfect for Houstonians," especially "with all these billboards and adult entertainment places out here."

Yeah, but if this outbreak of outsized crosses keeps up, Houston is going to look like a cemetery for deceased veterans of the Cyclops Wars.

And shouldn't these churches be helping the less fortunate in ways more tangible than these flamboyant displays of faith?

Not if you ask The Hippie. He says his son was baptized at Sagemont and that he attends services there. As for the cross?

"I think it's the Eighth Wonder of the World."

Hair Balls thought we already had one of those with the Astrodome. — John Nova Lomax

Sue Lovell's
Neighborhood Feud

It's an odd thing when the front door of a city councilmember's home is festooned with bright, urgent notices from the city's building-permit department. In the case of Councilmember Sue Lovell, that's only where the oddness starts.

A loyal Hair Balls reader e-mailed a photo of Lovell's front door in Montrose, which is peppered with orange notices from the city saying she'd never gotten a permit to build a couple of upgrades to her home.

But Lovell says it's no big deal.

Eight years ago, Lovell says, she hired someone to build a storage unit next to her driveway and a deck in her yard. The deck was about half an inch too close to the power lines, so she had it pared back.

"It was a long time ago," says Lovell, "and it didn't get permitted. I contracted with someone I trusted to do it the right way and they had not, so we're getting it fixed."

Okay. But eight years ago? This is coming up now? And why is it taking three notices on the front door to get it taken care of?

Lovell says she's "been in conversations with the permitting department" and is preparing the required site plans to submit to the city to get a permit.

She says she thinks someone in her neighborhood reported her.

"I have suspicions," she says. "These slumlords that live across the street have these terrible apartments and we're constantly reporting them, so I think it was probably just them retaliating. It comes with the territory. But the bottom line is, I have to do it the correct way and I'm doing it."

It must also be noted that some of Lovell's neighbors, if our e-mail traffic is to be believed, aren't happy that her dogs get loose sometimes.

Unhappy enough to go through the city permit records to see if changes made eight years ago got the proper permits? That's pretty unhappy.

We're sure the relevant workers in the permit department are pleased as punch to be caught up in the middle of this little neighborhood feud.— Chris Vogel


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