VENICE, Fla. - Some Venice residents say expansion plans from a nearby Christian church will ruin their peace and quiet and their property values. Those with the First Christian Church say they want to be good neighbors, but they also have to grow to keep up with their calling.
The church, located on Center Road just east of Jacaranda Boulevard, and the neighbors have lived together for years. Now a new plan to expand on the property for things like a school and an outdoor pavilion for weddings and concerts is causing a rift.
“You can hear it a couple streets down." Marcy Burth says a recent festival at the church was sending sound waves through the neighborhood. “Noise is a huge issue for us. This is a quiet residential neighborhood."
She says the Quail Lake community, which is separated from the church by an eight foot cement wall, and three other nearby homeowners associations are now protesting plans the church has to expand – plans that include a more than 5,000 square foot open-air pavilion.
"We feel we should not be placed in the position of policing the noise in our area." Church pastor David Miller says they use what sounds like classic rock to praise Jesus. He says they can have the events now; the pavilion would just be nicer. "We can only do four events a year outside. They have to be permitted. We have to follow certain rules about sound limits and decibels and things like that."
The church bought the 2 1/2 acre lot next door a year ago. "Someone could have bought that corner and wanted to put a Rite Aid or gas station."
Pastor Miller says all of this has been brought on because they also want to expand their facilities inside. Zoning changes and long range site plans must be approved by the county. The planning commission has already had some concerns.
"In that unit would be a fellowship space that could seat 200. Right now we don't have the ability to bring the large number of congregation together," says Pastor Miller.
Neighbors are not exactly thrilled with that either. Besides physically looking down on their homes, they're worried the new facility will house a pre-school and even high school students…bringing traffic and more noise.
Pastor Miller says they're listening to the concerns and trying to come up with a compromise to keep the peace. "We in no way, shape, or form want to come off as cold and callous and we don't care. We want to come alongside our neighbors and we want to be good neighbors. We also have a very clear calling of what we would like to get accomplished."
"We would like them to be able to develop their property. We would like the pavilion to be taken off the table. We would like to be assured there would be no second story on their multipurpose facility," says Burth.
The church will be holding a workshop Monday night at 7pm, hoping all of those concerned will come and talk.