Airdrie resident and United Church member, Marion Collin, is expressing frustration as well as hope as she reflects on the potential sale of the United Church's property in the city's Village neighbourhood.

She has been a member of the church since 1988 and has served in various roles, from being involved in the church nursery to the Sunday School program music, as well as choir singing. She was also the Vice Chair and Church trustee from 2003 to 2015.

Collin said she was dismayed to see that an anonymous letter was sent to DiscoverAirdrie that enumerated concerns of what appeared to be several residents after an engagement session was held in late January by Calgary organization, Aomega Lodges. The organization is eyeing to buy the property and potentially develop a care facility on its sight.

The anonymous letter, which Collin referred to, expressed disappointment at the potential development, as well as underlining that the invite by Aomega had been sent only a few days before the engagement session. 

"No one in attendance wanted this development to happen on this lot in old Airdrie. Let alone that the United Church is the oldest public building still standing in Airdrie," the letter previously stated. 

Collin, however, said that the topic of the potential sale of the church has been neither a secret nor, should it be a surprise to residents in the area, given the immense financial strain the church is under.

"There's nothing hush-hush about it. We've had this offer for quite a while, but we had to give Aomega time to get their ducks in a row," she said.

According to documents provided by Collin, the church's 2023 financial statements show that the insurance costs year-over-year have increased to $20,704. The 2023 utilities were $21,466, while property maintenance averaged $9,229 over the last decade. Collin added that not counting previous costs, since 2011, it is estimated that well over 200 thousand dollars has been spent, 'to get to the point of architectural renderings.'

Collin, however, isn't the only one who sounded the alarm on the church's inability to keep up with finances, which has meant the possibility of the imminent sale of the church's property. Previously, Airdrie resident Bob Cornish, whose family has been involved with the Airdrie United Church for over six decades, also underlined that the church has been running in the red for several years

"...We've come to the realization [and] accepted that something else has to be done," he said. "The last 20 years [we] have been running in the red. It's heartbreaking that we have to do that, but reality is reality."

During the initial engagement session between Aomega Lodges and the residents of The Village, Margaret Adu, the Managing Director of Aomega said that some residents had expressed concern about disruptive traffic, such as ambulances. However, she said that the care homes she operates in Calgary do not have disruptive traffic and that if there were to be a care facility in Airdrie's Village, those living in the facility would not have cars, which would minimize traffic.

Collin also said that the concern about disruptive traffic seems to be misplaced. She added that even the Church has seen its fair share of ambulances visiting the property. Most recently, she said, paramedics attended because an individual had fallen down the stairs in the building.

"This particular place [Aomega Lodges], there's going to be very few people driving... There are fewer parking concerns than there were with the first option."

The first option that Collin referred to was when the Airdrie United Church representatives along with developers approached Airdrie City Council in 2023, requesting a Land-Use Bylaw amendment which would re-district their parcels of land. The previously proposed re-districting would have allowed the possible re-development of the site, which included plans to demolish the church's current building, located on the north lot. The plan was to rebuild it on the south lot. It was also proposed that a four-storey apartment, with 40-some suites, would be built on the north lot. Since then, Collin said that the south lot parcels have been sold. 

City council unanimously voted against the re-districting last year, effectively blocking the initial plans of an apartment complex being built on the site. Collin said that because that proposal was shut down, very few financially feasible options remained for the church. She added that ultimately the decision to sell the property lies with the United Church of Canada, and while the church building's neighbours may be against it - it is the only choice that is left.

Collin also underlined that in her view, the development of an adult care facility on the Church's property is ethically the right thing to do.

"Now at hand, we have an offer, a good offer and an offer to build the perfect accommodation that would honour the feel and look of Airdrie United Church. Not only that; it would serve a community need lacking in the City of Airdrie. A building serving special needs on faith-based property is a perfect legacy to a United Church that has welcomed all people of every diverse culture and lifestyle."

In February, City of Airdrie officials stated that the city's planning team was made of the Airdrie United Church site being up for sale and that there was a potential plan to develop supportive housing on the site.

"...and public engagement has begun in preparation for an application submission. During a recent open house, the prospective purchaser mentioned their intention to submit an application for supportive housing on the existing building site. As of now, no application has been submitted," City officials stated last month.

The City underlined that until an application has been received they cannot provide further details on any ongoing discussions.

"Currently, the lands are zoned 'P1, Public Open Space District,' and supportive housing is not a listed use in that district. To proceed with supportive housing, a land use bylaw amendment is necessary to redistrict/rezone the lands, allowing for a zoning that permits this type of use."

Adu, though underlined that what Aomega is proposing is not supportive housing but Designated Supportive Living, Supportive living Accommodations.

The City also added that a land use bylaw amendment involves a public hearing and Council approval.

"As per legislative requirements, public hearings must be advertised in the local paper, on our website, and notices mailed to all residents within a minimum of 60 meters. Once the land has been redistricted/rezoned, the next step will be obtaining a development permit."

When asked what the option would be if the sale does not go through, Collin offered that there is one other potential option.

"If this Aomega Lodge offer is lost, Airdrie United Church members will carry on with services in the Christian Education Building until that prayer for land offer shows up. The Sanctuary will be shut down."

She said that shutting down the church building may help to drastically reduce maintenance and insurance costs which are unfeasible for the church. 

When asked if Collin had any more updates on what stage the potential sale is in, she said was not able to provide a comment. DiscoverAirdrie reached out to Aomega Lodges for further comment. However, Adu did not give any further clarification as to the sale, adding that another engagement session with residents is planned for Thursday, March 14 at 6 p.m. at the church.

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