Durham church approved, despite noise debate

Feb. 25, 2014 @ 07:15 PM

Farrington Road Baptist Church got the city/county Board of Adjustment’s permission on Tuesday to move to a new site just south of N.C. 54.

The unanimous, 7-0 decision allows the church to build a new sanctuary at 6084 Farrington Road to replace the one it’s giving up north of N.C. 54. The current sanctuary is coming down to make way for two multi-story office buildings.

Members voted after a brief hearing that saw Farrington’s representatives offer assurances that the church won’t be a noise problem to neighbors.

“We don’t know what future will hold, but I emphasize that this is a traditional-style congregation,” said Tom Stark, a lawyer who helped shepherd Farrington Baptist’s plan through the permit process. “They’re not using the praise-type service and there are no plans to do so.”

Talk of noise has become a factor in Durham land-use discussions involving churches because of the dispute that erupted in 2012 between another congregation and its neighbors.

That unfolded in south Durham between the leaders of newhope church and some homeowners in the adjoining Hills at Southpoint neighborhood.

The Hills at Southpoint residents complained the rock music newhope uses in its service boomed loud enough that they could hear it even inside their own homes.

The resulting quarrel eventually triggered litigation, and died down last year only after the residents and newhope negotiated a terms-undisclosed settlement.

Farrington Baptist representatives acknowledged that the newhope dispute influenced the site design of the new sanctuary.

That’s “one of the reasons” designers want to erect a 6-foot-tall privacy wall between it and homes in the adjoining Falconbridge neighborhood, church-hired engineer Phil Koch said.

But the Farrington congregation has “not been considered a noise problem before,” Koch said. “They do not have rock concerts going on at their facility.”

Nonetheless, one Falconbridge resident, Ed Holland, urged the board to consider adding a condition to the permit that would bar “any audible sounds beyond the property line.”

Board members mulled that over but decided against including one. They said Durham’s City Council-approved noise ordinance will govern the matter. It allows some emissions, particularly during the day.

“We can’t override the ordinance,” adjustment board Chairman George Kolasa said.

Even given the recent history involving newhope, “there are hundreds of churches in Durham that” operate without permit restrictions addressing noise, added Senior Assistant City Attorney Emanuel McGirt, the board’s legal adviser.