Former church to flog alcohol

Andrew Mathieson
Neighbours are up in arms over plans to serve alcohol at a former church amid rural land on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal rejected their complaints and upheld a council decision approving the conversion from house of the holy to licensed venue.
The tribunal approved the sale of liquor in the former Methodist church at 42-50 Church Road, Bellarine.
Geelong’s council had initially approved the development of the church’s hall for new owner Rogue House in 2004 to operate an art gallery and serve food.
Locals were concerned about noise pollution and the risk of vehicle and pedestrian accidents.
The church, located on a small block, gave visitors little alternative than to park outside neighbouring properties, residents argued.
Council also ignored pleas from residents who submitted a petition against the permit.
Residents argued authorities had no need to turn the former church into a business to retain the historic building because other interested buyers had wanted to use it as a private residence.
The building hosted church services and other functions until 2002.
VCAT sitting member Jeanette Rickards, who inspected the premises, ruled that sound was “not readily evident at short distance from the hall”.
“I expect that this music is unlikely to be played at the volume of the demonstration but rather to be at a background level for the enjoyment of patrons and will not result in any undue impact to the surrounding area,” she said.
“The existing permit already allows for this to occur and the permitting of a liquor licence will not change this situation in any way.”
Ms Rickard also pointed out that the tribunal had no authority to restrict vehicle parking unless council imposed its own restriction.