Neighbors say church would negatively affect property values
It was intended to be a house of God, but plans for a new church in Savannah have been denied planning permission after neighbors complained that it would bring down property values.
The growing Bethel Refuge Apostolic Church, housed in rented buildings in Prospect Park, was seeking to build a new $1 million, 400-seat church next to the LIME telephone building on Shamrock Road.
The Central Planning Authority has refused permission for the project following complaints from residents.
“The intensity of use from the church, including vehicular and pedestrian traffic and general human activity, will not be consistent with the character of the surrounding low density area and this will detract from the ability of the neighboring land owners to enjoy the amenity of the area,” the CPA recorded in minutes of its Dec. 10, 2014, meeting published this week.
Several residents wrote to the CPA to complain that the church would adversely affect the value of their homes. Others complained about traffic and parking issues and pointed out that the community of Savannah was already well served with four churches in the surrounding area.
One resident wrote, “It has been developed into a desirable and quiet residential neighborhood and the proposed church will not be in keeping with the character of the neighborhood.”
In letters to the authority, senior pastor Christopher Murray responded to some of the letters of complaint, suggesting that church elders were “taken aback” by residents’ comments that a church would detract from the neighborhood.
He adds that the idea that a church would lower property values is without merit.
“A house built unto the Lord does not depreciate the value of a community, but on the contrary, enhances it,” he wrote.
The pastor argued that the growing population in Savannah and Bodden Town meant another church was needed in the area. He supplied a petition of 100 signatures in support of the application.
Pastor Murray said in his submissions to the CPA that the church was established three years ago and has a growing, multicultural congregation of around 185 people. He said the church, which provides counseling and outreach services, has outgrown its current location and is looking for its own home.
The National Roads Authority suggested the impact on traffic would be minimal. But despite that assessment, the CPA said it believed the new building would create “traffic safety issues.” In refusing the application, it also cited parking and the effect of church traffic on the neighborhood.