By Loshaun Dixon
Basseterre, St. Kitts-The congregation of New Birth Gospel Tabernacle is working profusely to find themselves a new home after construction was halted at their current location as they sought to rebuild a larger sanctuary.
The church whose sanctuary was constructed in 2001 at Cabbage Tree Housing in Cayon, dismantled their old building in 2016 to construct an improved building for worship but construction was halted shortly after it began due to complaints by residence who live in the area.
Late last week Pastor Cyprian Williams mounted a one man protest outside Government Headquarters and shed some light on the issue. His action led to a meeting between him and the Attorney General which resulted in an offer being made by the government
Speaking at a press conference at the church’s temporary location on Sunday Pastor Williams gave some insight into what had taken place.
“In July 2016 the New Birth Gospel Tabernacle proceeded on the early stages of preparation for construction of the new sanctuary on lots number 19 and 97 at Cabbage Tree Housing. The property has been fully paid for and we are in the possession of the associated deed.
“In October 2016, we received a letter from the Building Control and Planning Board which indicated that they had received a petition from our neighbours, we later learned the result of that petition.”
He disclosed that the letter contained a notice revoking the planned permission for the construction of their church and requested that construction be halted with immediate effect.
“The church at that point relocated to a temporary site which is privately owned and we proceeded to have our service under a tent. The terms for the occupation of that land, was from July 2016 to February 2017.”
He indicated that the church then sought legal advice on the matter to voice their concerns.
“We through our lawyers responded to the letter received from the development control and planning board and voiced our concern about being asked to halt construction but expressing our intent to accept alternative piece of property as long as the piece was deemed suitable for our purpose.”
He added that they requested that all expenses that were previously incurred as well as compenstain for previous expenses.
“A response was long in coming. I suppose as a result of the extent of the consideration which would be necessary and as such we wrote again to several key authorities informing them of the situation and requesting of them urgent attention be given to the matter.”
Williams stated that shorty after they received response from the development and planning board stating they had noted the concerns and will seek to resolve the issue by identifying an appropriate replacement by February 6 2017.
“When the deadline passed we again sought to communicate by way of our lawyers I felt that as a result of murmuring which was started by many persons becoming aware of the situation that I should bring some clarification of the situation to my listeners on my morning radio programme I was hosting.”
The Pastor however indicated that previously before this dispute they had been offered land in Cayon but it was not suitable because of its locations and it left much to be desired in terms of the church’s needs.
“We received word of another possible which has been identified, but this site which was suggested was not available as someone claimed ownership. The predicament expanded this time because we had reach the deadline date of the property we had been occupying “
Williams stated that it was at this point he decided to make a peaceful stand in identifying suitable land addressing the suitable issues.
“My method was a quiet prayer throughout the days adjacent to Government Headquarters on Church Street.”
He then hailed the Attorney General’s office for their role in helping them find a solution.
“I want to thank the Attorney General’s office who has been working to resolve the issue at the time of my public appearance, to seek to hear our concerns. Currently, I believe that we have sufficiently been consulted and our lawyers are seeking to work along with the Attorney General’s office to come up with a suitable resolution.
“As you may be aware the Attorney General did make an offer of land in an area that appears to be suitable to our needs and we are working out the finer details to ensure that we are not disadvantaged as a result. We look forward for a speedy resolution.”
Williams however declined to speak on the details of the land offer from the government.
“Because it is not completed yet I will not be in a position to say and the Attorney General in his statement did not say where it was so I will not be able to give out that information because I don’t want to say something and there is a change”
He stated that they acquired their current plot of land in 2001 and started construction of their sanctuary in 2002 and were one of the first buildings in that area of Cabbage Tree Housing but since then the congregation had outgrown the current building and were about to start construction of their new building when construction was halted.
The Church leader was also asked if he was aware of the concerns by the neighbouring residential homes
“Officially no. we heard rumours, all the information we received were through rumours not one of the home owners wrote us, came to us, said anything to us…”
He however indicated that there has been no confusion between them and their nieghbors but highlighted some concerns that were cited
“Some of the concerns when we opened first was they said there was a noise issue, so we raised money to put in air conditioning… The second thing was parking, we tried to eliminate that by telling members not to park in front of anyone’s gate but it seems as though people don’t want you to park at all on the road. It’s a growing church so you must have parking issues at times but as I said we made sure that we didn’t have any contentions with the neighbours.”
Williams indicated that despite the troubles the church will continue worship where ever they can until the situation is resolved and a home is built.