The second coming

By David Kavanagh | posted on August 15, 2019

DENMARK council is set to reconsider a proposal to build a new church in the town after its initial rejection of the project in May prompted a mediation hearing at the State Administrative Tribunal.

Baptist Pastor Graeme Ritchie met with Shire representatives at the independent dispute resolution body’s offices in Perth on Monday, August 5 to consider a way forward without having to go to an official tribunal hearing.

He said Denmark councillors would be expected to “make a determination” about “what was discussed at that meeting” on or before September 17.

“I can’t say a lot because what was said in the actual mediation can’t really be said outside of that room,” Mr Ritchie noted.

“We explained our position, what we were about as a church and the types of things we would like to do as a worshipping community.

“We also discussed some of the concerns they had and just clarified those a bit … [That included] parking, the size of the building, what it was going to be used for and things like that.”

Mr Ritchie added that he had agreed to provide the Shire with any other material that would help clarify points of contention.

He described the mediation hearing as “a great meeting” and said he felt more positive about the whole matter.

“If there are other things that come about from [council’s consideration], which I don’t think there will be, we can either go back to mediation or we go to the tribunal,” he said.

Shire Director of Assets and Sustainable Development David King, who was present at last week’s meeting, said since “SAT mediation is without prejudice and confidential” he was unable to respond to a majority of queries from the Weekender.

“However, I am able to confirm that Mr Ritchie and Shire officers are working towards presenting an item to council in September for consideration,” he said.

Section 31(1) of the State Administrative Tribunal Act 2004 enables SAT to ‘invite the original decision-maker to reconsider the decision that is the subject of review proceedings before SAT’.

Mr Ritchie made the decision to take the matter to SAT after an hour-long meeting with Shire staff in June failed to find “alternative solutions” to the issue.

Under the original development application rejected by council the month prior, the church would be built on Lot 166 at 987 South Coast Highway and measure 560sqm in size.

It would reach a maximum height of 6.3m and feature an assembly hall with seating for 180 people.