The rector of an aging West Vancouver Church that plans to redevelop the property with a new church and market rental housing has expressed his concerns about the District’s Ambleside Local Area Plan. Kenneth Vinal, the rector of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Ambleside, recently wrote to the District of West Vancouver council about the issue.
Vinal was writing to express his concerns for Ambleside Local Area Plan’s “Framework Number 6 – Guide Community Use and Housing Objectives”, which he says ‘unintentionally prioritizes’ the development of rental housing over community and public assembly uses. This, in turn, discourages the inclusion of uses like a church in future redevelopment.
Below is the letter Vinal wrote to the District of West Vancouver Mayor and Council.
“We at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church (885 22nd St) are excited to see the Ambleside LAP continue to progress forward. Staff’s work on this to-date has been undertaken with care and dedication to the community and we would like to thank and commend them on their efforts in developing this Proposed Framework.
While we appreciate all of the efforts made, when it comes to the redevelopment potential of our property, we have concerns with some possible limitations of “Framework Number 6 – Guide Community Use and Housing Objectives”. We ask you to consider that there be additional room for density in cases where a development includes a community or public assembly use as well as new rental housing. As you are likely aware, our facility is nearing the end of its useful life and will require costly repairs in the very near future, including stained glass window maintenance/replacement, a new roof, and other major structural repairs which the Church cannot afford.
As such, we are exploring the option of redeveloping the property with a brand new church facility along with the addition of market rental housing above to help secure the longevity of the Church, offset financial burdens, and provide a beautiful new space for the community to enjoy. We appreciate the intent conveyed in item B of Framework Number 6, however, it unintentionally prioritizes the development of rental housing over community and public assembly uses based on highest and best use principles which then discourages the inclusion of uses like a church in future redevelopment. If we value these community uses, then there needs to be an intentional effort to preserve these meaningful spaces that help build community.
Our concern is that Framework Number 6 currently does not take into consideration the unique community space needs that a facility like a church requires. Churches require larger footprints of space at the ground level because of the need for spaces like a sanctuary, administration or office space, multi-purpose community gathering spaces and more parking than residential uses. This design represents a sizable portion of the ground floor area of a project and when all factored together adds additional construction costs for recreating our church than compared to a purely residential focused development. Ultimately, buildings with community and public assembly uses are designed and look differently than purely residential rental ones. Policy should then reflect when community and residential uses are combined. We have conducted several feasibility studies and have found that at minimum, the density required to redevelop the property is 2.75 FAR when public assembly or community use is contemplated at the ground level in addition to the market rental housing above. This would also allow us to stay within the maximum height limit of up to six storeys.
With rising construction costs, increases to interest rates, and the subsequent cost of borrowing, other similar facilities like St. Stephen’s will likely have similar concerns. Anything less than 2.75 FAR will not generate enough market density for the necessary reinvestment into the Church space nor meet the threshold we need to establish new operational seed funding for the Church which is all enabled by having rental housing. St. Stephen’s Church has been an important part of this community since 1913, and we hope to continue to remain here for decades to come.
We hope staff and council see the merits in this and suggest that the language from option B of Framework Number 6 be amended from: Consider rezoning applications for up to 4-storeys and 1.6 FAR where residential-only, or up to 6 storeys and 2.5 FAR in total where community use, and/or public assembly, and/or inclusion of rental housing is provided. To: Consider rezoning applications for up to 4-storeys and 1.6 FAR where residential-only, or up to 6 storeys and 2.5 FAR in total where 100% rental housing is provided and 2.75 FAR in total where community use, and/or public assembly, and/or rental housing is provided. We are confident you know the importance of maintaining uses that are an integral part of the community, such as our church, which has a long legacy and has impacted thousands of lives in our community. We hope you will consider this amendment prior to staff implementing the next steps of the LAP Framework.”