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Whistler Community Church gets development permit

'Virtual groundbreaking' planned for near future
A rendering of the proposed Whistler Community Church building in White Gold. Image courtesy of the RMOW

THE WHISTLER COMMUNITY CHURCH is one step closer to breaking ground on a new building in White Gold after council issued a development permit for the project on April 21.

The building proposed at 7226 Fitzsimmons Road North is 796.6 square metres in size with plans for a sanctuary space, fellowship hall, community kitchen, administrative offices, classrooms, a multi-purpose room and storage space on site.

Discussions about a new facility began in 1999 after the local Den Duyf family donated a 1.74-acre (0.7-hectare) parcel of land in White Gold to be used for the church.

The land is zoned Institutional Church 2 (IC2) and contains a development covenant on title, which staff recommended be modified for clarity, as certain provisions are no longer applicable.

While council voted unanimously to support the project, Councillor Jen Ford voiced some concerns before eventually voting in favour.

"All in all I understand that this land was donated to the organization many, many moons ago for this very use, the land has been designated and is zoned for this purpose, but I do see that in the covenant that we have been asked to do away with, this was put in a long time ago so that council of the day—whenever this application would come in—would consider the merits of what is being proposed, rather than, 'it's zoned, it's designated, it's ready to go, it doesn't need to go to council,'" Ford said.

"So we really need to be clear that this is meeting today's community's needs, and future needs, which we're constantly being challenged with—and that's our job, is to make good land-use decisions.

"In this case I like the form, I like the space ... but I don't know that it checks all the boxes for me as far as meeting all of our community's needs."

Ford added that she encourages the church to reach out to other groups that may be able to make use of the new space.

The project went to the municipal Advisory Design Panel (ADP) three times, and the proponents worked to incorporate the panel's comments into the design, said planner Stephanie Johnson in a presentation to council.

"We did discuss the ability or the potential to—like the catholic church—put in a portable housing unit, but the zoning didn't allow it ... that would have taken a lot more time," said Coun. Duane Jackson, who sits on the ADP.

"Maybe in the future we might see something like that."

Council's approval of the permit is a "big step" for the church and its congregation of about 130, said pastor Jon Pasiuk, in an email.

"(On April 22) our leadership team will be discussing what a groundbreaking ceremony will look like. That will likely happen in the next week or two as a livestream," Pasiuk said.

The interdenominational church's history in Whistler stretches four decades, with congregations happening in local homes, an A-frame cabin in Creekside and, since 1992, the Myrtle Philip Community School.

"I know it has been a very, very long process with many efforts to get to this place, so congratulations," said Mayor Jack Crompton.

"I agree with Coun. Ford that I hope there is ways that this facility serves all of our community, and I look forward to seeing the creative ways that the congregation comes up with to see that happen."

Read more about the church's efforts to build a permanent home in Pique, April 16, 2019: "Whistler Community Church looks to new home."

-with files from Brandon Barrett