The plan for proposed redevelopment of the First United Church – now Peninsula United Church – property at the corner of Buena Vista Avenue and Centre Street calls for a four-story residential care facility which also incorporates a 210-seat church and event space. (Contributed graphic).

The plan for proposed redevelopment of the First United Church – now Peninsula United Church – property at the corner of Buena Vista Avenue and Centre Street calls for a four-story residential care facility which also incorporates a 210-seat church and event space. (Contributed graphic).

White Rock United Church redevelopment receives strong support

Some residents continue to express concerns about height, massing and impact on the neighbourhood

A public meeting on the major development permit and requested variances for the White Rock First United Church property heard mostly favourable comment Monday evening – but some residents still expressed concern about the height and massing of the building.

The corner property, at 15385 Semiahmoo Ave. (the intersection of Buena Vista Avenue and Centre Street) is the current site of the church, now known as the Peninsula United Church.

Proposed redevelopment is for a four-storey residential care facility, incorporating a ground level church/flexible programming space with a 210-seat capacity, plus service areas parking and underground parking. The care facility would include 54 assisted-living suites and 28 memory care suites.

Requested variances include increasing maximum lot coverage from 45 per cent to 66 per cent, increasing maximum height from 10.7 metres to 13.5 metres and reduction of minimum lot-line setbacks.

Supporters, including congregation members, church program organizers and current minister Rev. Louise Cummings, said the project represented the church’s desire to continue to play a valuable role in the community, including the lunch programs and cold-weather shelter, while creating a more practical building for current needs than the existing church, constructed in the early 1960s.

In written feedback from a Sept. 7 public information meeting on the project, residents expressed concerns with the planned building’s impact on views and the character of the neighbourhood.

Several speakers at the meeting continued the theme, pointing out that the highest point of the existing church is the tower, which will be exceeded by the full mass of the proposed building.

“I support the idea of the project, but I believe I should go on record for the silent majority,” said Leanne Berry, who said that view corridors are important to local residents. “I don’t object to the project per se, but I object to the scale of it…it will have a huge impact on the neighbourhood.”

But congregation member and project supporter Ellen Kennett – a 62-year-resident of the city – said “our community has changed and will continue to change,” adding that the design includes a “very usable multi-purpose space for the church.”

“Our church will continue to ensure that White Rock is a better, safer place to live,” she said.

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