Joel Den Haan, the Coordinating Consultant to Airdrie United Church has underlined that while he and the church's congregation are gutted by the decision that the church building will have to be demolished (212 1 Ave NE), he wants to set the record straight.  

After a meeting of the Airdrie Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) earlier this month and a subsequent article on Discover Airdrie, Den Haan said that he is hoping to clarify a few key issues.  

Parking and the Traffic Impact Study  

Den Haan said that during the MPC meeting, the issue of the number of parking stalls that the church currently has at its disposal is in fact 48 parking stalls, not 80 as was previously reported. 

"At this point, the plan is to retain 46 stalls available for new usages or dedicated parking; for the development on the north side lots," he said. "On the south side, our plan at this point is to have somewhere between 11 and 15 stalls that reflect the normal seat count for a Sunday morning attendance for the congregation of Airdrie United Church." 

He also noted that because parking stalls are essentially unmanaged at the present time, there have been issues with people and groups either using the parking lot for loading or parking their RVs. 

"Our plan, working with our expert consulting resources, is to build a traffic management plan for the 46-47 stalls we will create that allows more control than what exists now over how vehicles go, stop, wait and reside on our property," he wrote.  

The Traffic Impact Study which was also brought up in the MPC meeting on March 2 was requested by the City's engineering department of the church. The Traffic Impact Study was done last fall and encompassed different times of the day, including mid-day peak periods, rush hour morning traffic as well as evenings and school pick-up times. 

"The City also asked us to extend the scope of the study further than would normally be the case for a property like ours, right out to the Edmonton Trail and [the] 1st Avenue intersection, which is well to the east of our property," he said. "So, it's a very complete study." 

Den Haan said that he has committed to the City in a document that he will be providing tonight at the Public hearing for land use amendment in The Village, which will be held at 6 p.m., that the church will continue to develop traffic management plans. 

A Heritage Site?  

Den Haan also said that the issue of whether the church is a heritage site must be understood better. He said that the building that Airdrie residents see now was in fact heavily modified in the 1970s and 1980s. 

"The sanctuary as it's currently structured faces 180 degrees in the other direction from the way it was built. An addition was added to the rear of the facility to allow some expansion in the 1980s. That expansion affected the structure of the building in a significant way," he explained. 

While some may think the windows are in fact an original portion of the historical building, the windows were installed in the 1970s. However, he did note that there are elements of the architecture that are original, including the steeple and the front entrance. 

"We're actually looking at ways to preserve those elements in some fashion in anything that we build. But the reality is the building has been heavily modified already, which is why it can't qualify as a heritage site," Den Haan said. "One of the first things we checked out a decade or more ago was [if we] could qualify as a heritage site. The answer is: in a very limited way." 

Structural Problems  

Perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of the building is the issue regarding the integrity of its foundation. Den Haan said that because there is water flowing underneath the buildings, this has made for recurring problems. 

"We have multiple sump pumps attempting to keep the basement dry and that is a very challenging task. The building itself is changing itself in ways that are going to be very hard to fix and available funding for historic resources are simply inadequate to the cost and the estimates that we've received for the kind of structural work we need to do." 

He said that with his experience from previous work in other communities when there are changes to the foundation underneath a historic building, there are serious issues around safety as well as compliance codes.  

"Our members are more aware of the heritage status of the building than anybody else and they've worked very hard on this. We want to try and work with the City to honour that history and to honour some of the characteristics of the building, while still making it manageable going forward."  

He admitted that the church and its members have tried going every possible avenue and angle and that there is a sense of loss amongst the members. 

"There's no doubt people are very upset about this. That being said, the goal of the project is to actually carry on the ministry that goes on in these buildings and to do it in a way that works better within the emerging Airdrie context where we are now, rather than being stuck with a building that's it's falling apart around us." 

Next Steps 

Den Haan also took pains to stress that what the church is looking for at the moment is a land use designation and not a development permit. 

"We're trying to get permission from the City of Airdrie to use our land in a new way, so, that we can actually make a better and more viable impact for community benefit in the City of Airdrie." 

He said that the diagrams and sketches that are provided as part of the proposal to the City are a representation, rather than a solid building blueprint. 

"When we build - that's still to come during development permitting, that's still a conversation to be had with the City and with the community; hopefully in a more collaborative way going forward. We want to work on this together." 

However, he underlined that the sketches and diagrams of the development do provide open space, particularly on the southwestward portion of the North parcel and there are also setbacks on the upper floors of the proposed apartment building. 

"[This is so] we don't have a massive box looking out over people, but rather something that actually fits in a better way into the community context. So again, this is a land use discussion. The design is something we want to work out together with the City and with the community at large," he said. "But we need permission to be able to change our land use and get something done here." 

Den Haan concluded that the reality of the situation is that the building itself is telling those around that change is coming.  

"We have a lot of experience in this regard- we want to work with the City and the community to honour and steward the history of our buildings in Airdrie. We have in fact worked out detailed plans to carry the legacy forward." 

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