Apropos the post last week titled “No building permit for Australian synagogue — it might draw ISIS-supporter terrorist attacks and endanger neighbors,” here’s a joint statement just released by the Waverley (Australia) Council and the organization that sought to built a synagogue there:
Waverley Council and the Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe held a ‘without prejudice’ meeting on 9 August 2017 [i.e., a negotiation whose contents can’t be used as evidence in any future disputes] to discuss the proposed synagogue and apartments at 105 Wellington Street, for which the development application was refused by the Land and Environment Court on 2 August….
The meeting opened with a prayer led by Rabbi [Eli] Feldman [of FREE] and opening comments from Mayor Sally Betts and Rabbi [Yehoram] Ulman. The Rabbi acknowledged Waverley Council’s commitment to and support of the Jewish community. Waverley Council reaffirmed that a synagogue is a permitted use at the site under Waverley planning controls and that security issues around other synagogues and Jewish schools had been dealt with quickly and without controversy in the past.
After some constructive discussion, both parties agreed that the decision of the court was not meant to be related to religion or terror and that the matters raised in the judgement were capable of being overcome.
The meeting discussed the process for submission and assessment of a fresh Development Application.
Waverley Council and the Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe agreed that it was likely that, should a new Development Application be submitted, outstanding matters could be resolved satisfactorily in which case development approval could be given.
Both parties expressed the view that Waverley is a safe place to live and visit and that any new DA for the Wellington Street site should reassess security provisions. Waverley staff discussed the various development applications for alterations to other synagogues and Jewish schools that Waverley Council has dealt with in the past; many of these included a security component, and all these applications had been approved by Waverley Council once any matters had been resolved. FREE advised that they would be submitting a revised security assessment as part of their development application.
Waverley staff outlined the process for assessment of a new development application, which would be determined by the independent Waverley Development Assessment Panel and not by the Councillors.
Both parties expressed their commitment to work together constructively to resolve outstanding issues and to allay any fears that have arisen out of the press coverage. A further meeting of the FREE architect and town planning adviser will take place with Council senior planning staff next week.
Rabbi Ulman welcomed the Council’s offer to meet again to discuss a new application for a similar development and was heartened to hear from Council that a synagogue is an acceptable use for a building on the land.
Rabbi Ulman said “The meeting today was positive and we look forward to working with Waverley Council to address issues raised in the Land and Environment Court judgement. All going well, we may have development approval in place as soon as December.”
Waverley Council Acting General Manager Cathy Henderson said “We are very pleased that Waverley and FREE have committed to working together constructively. Both parties will follow the legal process for submission and assessment of the new development application and I feel confident that outstanding matters, including security, can be resolved. ”
Both parties expressed their commitment to free speech and freedom of religion, and suggested the planned protest on 13 August may be unproductive at this time.
It’s not entirely clear to me what is meant by “both parties agreed that the decision of the court was not meant to be related to religion or terror,” given that the decision of the court did seem related to religion or terror. But it sounds as though there’s some diplomacy going on there.