Alexandra Park Conference Centre is located on what could be considered one of the most prestigious pieces of land owned by the Synod, but council rezoning is forcing the Synod to consider its future. Jane Moad reports.
Located in the heart of the Sunshine Coast, thousands of people have visited the almost ten hectare site for Synod in Session meetings, youth events and school camps.
But recent rezoning of the area by the Sunshine Coast Regional Council from medium density to community purposes has been the catalyst for significant questions to be raised about the future use of the Alex Park site.
“The impact of rezoning to the value of the property—in the region of a $5 to 7 million loss—was significant enough for the Finance, Investment and Property (FIP) board to consider its options to protect the value of the property,” explains Peter Cranna, director of Finance and Property Services for the Queensland Synod.
“We engaged with town planners and discovered there was a mechanism to lodge a development application under the old town plan. As long as it met the old town plan’s rules and constraints it would be approved as a code assessable application, which means that community consultation was not a requirement.”
The FIP board approved an application that was submitted in November 2015 to build 318 units on the site, which Peter notes would reflect a positive $10-15 million differential in the value of the site.
Approval for the development application is not expected until January 2017, but Peter stresses that this is only one potential option for future use of the site. “There are a number of opportunities, and not all of them have been explored yet.
“Selling it will be considered, but that is least preferred at this stage. Unless there is a really good reason to sell, I don’t think that would be the option adopted.
“There’s no question that if we do sell the site we’ll never get something like it back again, close to the beach and with all the benefits that brings.
“It’s covering the costs of holding the land, it’s contributing to the Mission and Service Fund and it’s making a profit to maintain its current infrastructure on the land it’s on. That is sufficient to say it should continue as is, without a whole lot of pressure being put on it until we can determine a better purpose.”
Rezoning of the site and discussion around its future use has sparked a range of reactions from the local community, media and church members.
Ian Edgar, Manager of Alexandra Park Conference Centre says a conversation has been needed around why the Synod owns the site and its intended purpose. “This site has great mission potential for the church, through what we’re currently doing and through other opportunities that we’re looking at in the future.”
The Mary Burnett Presbytery has been consulting with Ian, Sunshine Coast ministers, church members and members of the Synod Standing Committee and are now developing a proposal for consideration at the March 2017 Standing Committee meeting.
“We’re developing a mission plan which has four elements to it,” says Mary Burnett Presbytery minister Rev Bob Harriman.
“We want to continue to develop the ministry and mission of the camping and conference centre alongside a neo-monastic community, a reinvigorated Order of St Stephen with two foci—prayer and service.”
The presbytery’s concept would over time include establishing a regional church on the site with a focus on families, young people and children, and a possible partnership with UnitingCare to provide education and training to support people in crisis.
“We would argue that the work has already been started through the camping and conference centre and we would want to springboard into the other ideas,” says Bob.
“Part of any viable future would need to be a partnership between synod, presbytery and congregations to work together to chart a course and plan.”
Peter hopes that the various options will be brought together in 2017, saying “The 32nd Synod came up with some very clear priority directions. As long as the mission plan has credible and realistic activities that meet those priority directions, it will be more favourably considered than a plan that doesn’t.
“This is a significant property of the Synod—in value and memories—and we should exercise considerable prayer over the mission because we don’t want to mess it up.”