Churches and other places of public worship could soon be allowed in Shellharbour City's light industrial areas after Shellharbour councillors voted 4-3 to prepare a planning proposal to amend the council's key planning document.
However concerns were expressed about the implications such a move would have on the supply of the city's industrial land and the impacts on other uses already permitted in industrial areas.
The move to change the council's Local Environmental Plan 2013 was made in response to an approach from a church to establish a presence in a light industrial zone in Warilla.
Shellharbour councillor Peter Moran said his concern was that churches were no longer just a building used on a Sunday and then locked up for the rest of the week.
He said one Shellharbour church had a childcare centre attached to it as "an ancillary use" as well as a kitchen that operated weekdays.
While he had no problem with this at the existing church he would not like to see churches in an industrial area expect to do the same.
"And regardless of what you think of brothels, the only zone they can operate in is an industrial zone - if a brothel opens up in the area what will the church say then?" Cr Moran asked.
"Churches can already be established in residential zones.
"Going into industrial areas suits some churches because it is usually cheaper than a residential zone which is where I think they should be."
Places of public worship are permissible in Wollongong City Council's industrial areas, but prohibited in Kiama Municipal Council's.
Shellharbour Council's director of city outcomes Carey McIntyre said Cr Moran's concerns over conflicts between the different uses were "real and need consideration".
"Any application lodged would still need to be considered on its merits and social impact and public interest," Mr McIntyre said.
While churches are not permitted in industrial zones under the Shellharbour LEP, it is possible to have a church listed as an "additional permissible use" on a selected site or precinct under what is known as "a Schedule 1 amendment", a type of amendment discouraged by the Department of Planning and Environment.
In the Shellharbour LEP industrial areas are zoned as IN1 General Industrial or IN2 Light Industrial.
There are five IN2 light industrial zoned areas in Shellharbour City located in north Warilla, Barrack Heights, Oak Flats and two in Albion Park Rail.
There is one IN1 general industrial zone between the Princes Highway and Illawarra Regional Airport.
Shellharbour council's proposal to amend its LEP will be placed on exhibition for public comment.