A CHURCH in the heart of Wodonga is set to be replaced with 20 townhouses following council approval.
Councillors this week voted 4-2 for the development which will result in the Lutheran church in Havelock Street, opposite The Cube, being demolished.
Havelock Central got the nod after 17 objections that centred on neighbourhood character, traffic impact and the skillion roof style.
Lutheran parish council acting chair Jenny Simboras welcomed the approval.
"Now we've got this good news we can put into process the plans for relocating the congregation down to the (Victory Lutheran) college," Mrs Simboras said.
"We will be worshipping in a couple of classrooms while the new church is being built."
Alatalo Bros general manager Tony Moyle said if the approval was not appealed to VCAT he expected bulldozers to move in on the church, hall and manse in May-June.
The two-storey townhouses, 16 three-bedroom and 4 two-bedroom, are tipped to sell for $450,000 to $500,000.
Mr Moyle said there had been strong interest from those who work nearby and retirees.
"We've had a lot of inquiries, now it's been approved we'll be going back to those people and trying to start some deposits and contracts," he said.
Construction is tipped to start in spring with residences ready to occupy in the second half of next year.
In approving the plan, mayor Anna Speedie said the project fitted the council's aim of increasing residential density in the city centre.
"While I know that some people in our community will not be happy...I believe we can't object to this recommendation….because it does meet the planning requirements," Cr Speedie said.
The mayor was joined by councillors Danny Lowe, John Watson and Brian Mitchell in supporting the plan, while Ron Mildren and Libby Hall disapproved.
Deputy mayor Kat Bennett did not participate in the debate, after declaring a conflict of interest because her family live nearby.