Residents' outcry over proposal
A PROPOSED development of a third Exclusive Brethren church on Gympie's Southside is being questioned by neighbouring property owners who are worried that “a cult is buying up” their suburb.
The new development is on an 800sqm parcel of land which fronts Groundwater Road and backs on to Waldock Road. Gympie Regional Council has already approved the subdivision of the property into 10 house blocks and the development application for the church is currently being assessed, pending the outcome of a traffic study.
Among the concerns of neighbours if the church was to go ahead, is an increase in traffic flow and noise and the eventual devaluation of their properties.
“But it's not just about the church,” Jackie Kyte said, “It's the activity surrounding it.”
“They buy the first couple of houses at a premium and then come in and permeate around you. (In other cases) people have eventually ended up leaving and lost money on their homes.”
Mrs Kyte and her neighbour Paul Gerrard fiercely oppose the church development and have the support of neighbours who have expressed their concerns in writing to Council.
“People need to be made aware that this development is not only going to affect this area, but the whole community,” Mr Gerrard said.
“When I first objected (against the development) they said they would ‘obviously' need to buy me out. If you stand in their way they'll bully you — in the sense that money talks.”
Exclusive Brethren elder Ken Baker said they were aware of residents' concerns and had passed those on to the developing contractor.
He said the proposed church would be a “local room” for members living nearby to congregate for communion and prayer, and added that most likely eight of the ten house blocks would be sold to the general public.
“This church would be basically used for members living nearby who would walk to it for prayer and communion,” Mr Baker told The Gympie Times yesterday.
“We don't believe in amassing in Brisbane. (Our aim is to) support regional areas and our local community.”
GYMPIE Regional Council Planning and Development chairman Ian Petersen said it would be some time before a decision was made on the development application for a church to be built on one of the subdivided blocks on Groundwater Road.
He said he had heard residents' concerns about the Exclusive Brethren, but was required to treat each application on its own merits.
“At this stage we are still going through the processes. Council have requested further information and will ensure the development meets all conditions and requirements if it is to go ahead,” Cr Petersen reassured.
“At this point Council is a fair way off from making the decision. All factors will be taken into consideration as well as the concerns of residents who have lodged submissions of objection.”
Mrs Kyte and Mr Gerrard said they had been relying on Council support and turned to the media when they didn't receive it.
“The ignorance of Council is very obvious,” Mr Gerrard said. “This is a major development going on and most of the councillors knew nothing about it.”
“The plan is for a 100-seat church and 29 car parks. I'm not going to take it lying down.”
Mr Baker said the Exclusive Brethren paid taxes and provided employment for about 80 local people, having purchased seven businesses in the Gympie area.
“We are a family organisation — everyone takes part including the children,” he said and added that the Gympie congregation were looking at inviting more members to the area.
“We like to have contact with members in nearby neighbourhoods and Gympie provides us with a nice even distribution up the coast. Media comments about us have been largely untrue... local people working for us are absolutely rapt.”