Redevelopment of White Rock’s First United Church property at the corner of Buena Vista Avenue and Centre Street – for which council approved variances Monday – will create a four-story residential care facility incorporating a 210-seat church and event space. (Contributed graphic).

White Rock council divided over United Church plan

Variances for combined church and care facility approved, despite concerns from Knight, Fathers and Chesney

On a split vote this week, White Rock council granted requested variances for the development permit for the White Rock First United Church property.

The redeveloped site, at 15385 Semiahmoo Ave. (Buena Vista Avenue/Centre Street) will be home for a four-storey residential care facility, including a new ground-level Peninsula United Church, flexible programming space with a 210-seat capacity, plus service areas, parking and underground parking.

The care facility – to be known as Morningstar House, according to project plans – is to include 54 assisted-living suites and 28 memory-care suites.

The requested variances – including increasing maximum lot coverage from 45 per cent to 66 per cent, increasing maximum height to 13.5 metres from 10.7 metres and reducing minimum lot-line setbacks – had met with resistance from some residents in the city’s public meeting on the project, who voiced concerns about the impact of the building height and massing on the neighbourhood.

These concerns were echoed by comments from councillors voting against the proposal, including Couns. Megan Knight, Helen Fathers and David Chesney.

“I won’t be supporting this,” Knight said.

“I think they’re asking for too much – it’s almost like a rezoning to me.”

Knight noted the care-facility component will also be run as a separate, for-profit business.

“The increase in density is too much for me,” said Fathers, adding her concerns were not about the church activities and programs that would operate on the site, but the for-profit component.

Planning manager Carl Isaak said the church and the care facility would retain separate ownership of their components of the shared building.

“It’s another way to have a strata type of relationship,” he said, noting he expected terms of the agreement would be worked out in advance by both parties, rather than having ongoing strata meetings.

Fathers also wanted to know if the care units would be rented, and for how much.

Planning and development services director Carl Johannsen said he did not have any information on what rental rates would be, but that he believed it would be in line with current market prices.

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