Ministry parsonage under pressure in Ocean Shores

A long-standing debate over the presence of a church retreat in a residential neighborhood of Ocean Shores came to a halt last month when Michelle McClusky and her husband Marciel Lee announced that the property would now be used to build a family vacation home.

Michelle, who founded Father and Sons Ministries with her late husband Pat in 1990, is Presiding Bishop of the ministry. The vacation home is therefore considered a parsonage paid for by the ministry and will be tax exempt.

“We apologize for any misunderstanding that we allowed anybody, and for the community of Ocean Shores, to believe that we are going to build a retreat center. That is no longer a reality, and hasn’t been for years,” said Lee in a community meeting at the Ocean Shores Lions Club on March 24. “Our property in Ocean Shores is for a family vacation home, and for that and that alone. That’s our plan going forward.”

McClusky and Lee purchased the first lot in 1993, followed by a second adjacent lot in 1995. Both lots were in their personal names before ownership was transferred to the ministry.

“We later determined that it was more feasible to put the lots in the name of the ministry because the ministry was supplying the money to build it and it’s complicated to have the land in one name and the building in another. It just makes more sense to have them both in the same name,” said McClusky in an email to The Daily World.

Father and Sons Ministries had a church in Kirkland from June 1990 until 2016, but has been without a physical place of worship for the past six years. They have been operating as traveling ministers, making house calls and providing spiritual and marriage counseling via phone and Zoom, according to McClusky.

“We spend time in prayer for our personal growth and praying for those we minister to, and studying the word of God for teaching. We also interpret dreams and speak destinies over people, connecting them to God in the sphere in the heavenly realm, encouraging them to maturity in their walk with Him. Managing investments also requires time. These are to provide income while we minister to people,” she said.

Plans for the merged lots, located at 250 S. Razor Clam Drive, have gone through multiple iterations as the ministry has sought approval from the city of Ocean Shores for a retreat center. Such a building, however, is not allowed in an R-1 zoning district — or a zoning district that only permits single-family residential homes.

After being denied a Conditional Use Permit for a retreat center by the city, the ministry then pivoted to plans for a family vacation home. According to McClusky, they have submitted plans to the building department for a four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot home.

“We were thinking of opening it up for others to join us in this, but the city didn’t accept this proposal two and a half years ago so we changed floor plans to a smaller house just to accommodate the immediate family,” she said. “Not sure why people are upset about us building a home. We are also wanting to pray for the city of Ocean Shores to once again become prosperous as it once was in the beginning of its inception.”

In addition to a residence in Kirkland, McClusky’s vacation home qualifies as a parsonage despite its non-contiguous status to a church property. In Washington, parsonages receive exemption from property taxation so long as they remain smaller than 5 acres of land. If the property is not used for church purposes, the exemption is lost.

Since the property on Razor Clam Drive has no buildings on it yet, property taxes have been levied on the merged lot.

Despite outcry from local residents over the parsonage’s tax-exemption status, short of changing state law, they will have to accept the reality of their new neighbors. All eyes remain on the ministry as residents noticed that the process of clearing the lot began last month, even though the permit to do so had expired in November 2021.

“The Ocean Shores City Planning Office is forwarding the lot clearing permit violation to Code Enforcement for further action. The Ocean Shores Building Department sent a letter of noncompliance with regards to the plans at 250 South Razor Clam and we are awaiting the reply,” said City Administrator Scott Andersen in a statement to The Daily World.

“To the best of our knowledge, the contractor working on the project has withdrawn from it, so we are unsure who, if anyone, will now be responsible for answering the city’s noncompliance letter. Until the city receives an answer, the building plans cannot move forward.”

According to Lee, construction on the home will not be completed for another 12 to 18 months. Only one building permit has ever been submitted to the city for the property, which is still on file and has yet to be processed.

“Due diligence, we are lacking in that area. We didn’t oversee it like we could’ve, because we thought that the people were going to do what they were supposed to. Going forward, we’re going to do everything above board, because there’s no other way,” said Lee in the meeting on March 24.

Father and Sons Ministries is a part of the Society of Apostolic Church Ministries, which is registered in Montana. The Society is a corporation sole: an IRS-designated entity to ensure the continuity of ownership for property owned by a legitimate religious organization.

The Society of Apostolic Church Ministries and Bishop Elizabeth Gardner are currently plaintiffs in a case against the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. According to the corporation sole, the IRS claimed a wrongful levy action on a church-owned property in Yavapai County, Arizona, through a Nominee lien.