by Chad Ingram
Published May 9 2017
Dysart’s public meeting committee has again deferred making a recommendation on an application from The Lighthouse Pentecostal Church for a zoning change that would see the church move into the former home of Millennium Fitness on Harmony Road.
The property is currently zoned rural residential and environmental protection and the church is requesting a zoning of residential type 1 exception and environmental protection. The rezoning is a condition of the purchase of the property by the church.
At an April 3 public meeting Harmony Road residents expressed concerns including those about noise traffic overflow parking snowplowing and drainage from the property’s parking lot which is scheduled to increase in size.
The committee deferred the issue to a May 1 public meeting awaiting the completion of a site plan for the application.
At the May 1 meeting residents reiterated concerns including about drainage. With the building’s maximum occupancy of 140 people regulations require that a minimum of 35 parking spots be created.
The current parking lot has no marked spaces but the owner estimates there is room for approximately 25 to 30 vehicles.
“No new buildings are proposed for this project” said township planner Patricia Martin explaining this meant that the drainage on the property should not be significantly altered by the addition of parking spaces.
Martin said the site had been visited by the municipality’s director of public works and that “he advises he has no particular concerns with drainage or parking.”
Residents of Harmony Road however continue to worry about these issues.
“I was just wondering about trees” said one resident asking if trees would be cut down to accommodate more parking.
“No trees will be taken down in that parking lot” said Jamie McMahon a representative of the church. McMahon said a rock island currently located in the parking lot would be removed.
One resident said she was concerned about garbage blowing from cars and asked if the church would be erecting a fence.
“We actually hadn’t thought of that” McMahon said. “Right now there’s no plans for a fence but if that’s something we’d have to consider we would consider that.”
Regarding traffic while the building sits outside the purview of the MTO the ministry is taking a look at what potential impacts there may be at the intersection of Harmony Road and Highway 118.
McMahon said that when the building was operating as a gym there was traffic in and out all the time with classes taking place two or three times a week.
While residents disagreed the gym garnered that much traffic Ken Stevens who operated the business said there had been 100 and 150 members who used the gym on a regular basis.
“Nobody noticed or thought we had many members” Stevens noted.
Residents said they were concerned not just about traffic on Sunday mornings but other days of the week for activities such as Bible study summer camps and fundraising activities.
Lighthouse pastor Doug Ross who would live in the residential part of the building with his wife told residents the church does not engage in fundraising activities but relies solely on tithes and donations from its members to operate.
“This church has been in this town for 68 years” Ross said. “We’ve never had a fundraising event. It’s against our belief.”
While there were also concerns about school bus turnarounds “we don’t have any programs where we run school buses” Ross said.
There is room on the property to create a bus-turning area should it be required in the future.
Residents also expressed concern about the growth of the church which has a congregation of approximately 50 people.
“Once we hit 100 people we’ll get out of that property we’ll go somewhere else” said Ross who implored the residents to give the church a chance.
“Give us a chance to prove ourselves” he said. “We’re not going to hurt your neighbourhood.”
There is also an apartment located within the building. If it is determined that the apartment is legal – meets building code standards – it’s the church’s intention to rent it out to help with income.
If it turns out that it’s not it will not be rented Ross said. “We will abide by the laws and bylaws” he said.
Martin pointed out that within the R1 zone any of the homes on Harmony Road can have basement apartments and any of them could be used to start a church.
The committee which will ultimately make a recommendation to Dysart et al council on the matter deferred the issue to a June 5 public meeting as it awaits feedback from the MTO.