Church plans stall after community complaints

SUNSET HILLS, Mo. (KSDK) - A Sunset Hills church is planning to expand, but those plans hit a speed bump because of concerns from neighbors.

St. Thomas Holy Spirit Lutheran Church has been on S. Lindbergh for half a century. Over the decades, it has grown and changed. But its latest plans come with some growing pains because of concern from some neighbors. The plans are for a vacant lot just north of the church, and that lot is just yards away from a row of residences.

"It's not the end of the world. But we've got a nice peaceful community and we'd like to keep it that way," said neighbor Tom Lynch.

Lynch lives in the retirement community next to the church and says the main concern is noise from youth activities and outdoor services the church is planning in its new space.

"We have a band. And so when you hear 'band' there's always a fear of what will that be, and it's more a fear of the unknown," said Bonnie Butterfield, the church's council president.

Butterfield says the church has held outdoor services before and it never heard any complaints. But with a new space come new neighbors. And those residents brought their concerns to the Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen. The board voted to not allow plans for the space to move forward, for the time being. The issue will be revisited next month.

"I think we'll come to a resolution. I think everyone agrees that we don't want to restrict what a church does but we also have to be fair to the neighbors," said Sunset Hills Mayor Mark Furrer.

The two groups are talking in hopes of coming to an agreement about the space, which the church plans to share with the community. In addition to a patio, plans include benches and a small walking trail. And neighbors say they do understand that the setting can't be soundproof.

"We're not going to have a war over this. We've got to learn to live together," Lynch said.

The planning and zoning commission has given its approval to the permits the church needs to move forward. If the church receives approval from the board in August, it will start work immediately.


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