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Plan would convert former Chalmers church into residence

The owners of a vacant Winterbourne church hope to turn it into their home, adding another structure to the site in the bargain. The new building is likely to be Paul and Tara Ballantyne’s biggest hurdle, however.
Under a plan unveiled at a public meeting in Woolwich council chambers January 13, the additional building would be the couple’s home while the renovations are carried out at the former Chalmer’s Presbyterian Church at 4 Katherine St. N. The two-storey building and attached garage would later house their businesses: his in real estate, hers as an interior and food stylist.
To do that, they’ll need a change in the zoning, to commercial (C-3) from the current institutional reflecting the property’s use as a church until its closure at the end of 2011. The uses under the commercial zoning would be reduced from the range normally permitted under the C-3 designation. A temporary-use bylaw would permit the couple to live in the new building for up to three years during the renovation period. Six parking spaces would be created on the property between the two buildings.
The matter is further complicated by the township’s plan to seek a heritage designation for the church, built in 1870. The owners have appealed that move, but that action is on hold pending the outcome of the zone-change application, director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley told councillors meeting Tuesday night.
As proposed, the new building would be situated north of the church, feature some 870 square feet on each of its two floors. Another 870 sq.-ft., single-storey garage would be attached.
Elizabeth Reimber, a planner with Labreche Patterson & Associates, said her clients’ plans for the site are a good fit in the community.
The new building would be “set back an ample distance from the church,” with the proposed uses in line with the neighbourhood where the nearby properties also have the C-3 designation.
“Numerous properties along Katherine Street are zoned to permit uses by right that would be impactful to both the other residents of the area and the church whereas the proposed uses for the subject lands are ‘low impact’ and generally internal to the proposed structure.”
Two of the neighbours in attendance welcomed the plan to preserve the church by turning it into a residence, though with some reservations about the commercial aspects.
“I’m delighted that they want to repurpose this lovely building,” said Kim Hodgson, who has previously spoken in favour a heritage designation for the church.
In a letter, however, another neighbour expressed his opposition to the proposal.
Jeff Beker, who lives on Geddes Street behind the property, said he bought his home on the understanding the church would remain as a heritage structure, the property unchanged.
“I find it hard to believe this will not have a negative impact and possibly start a chain reaction of development from adjacent lots and create a community that none of us were looking for when we moved here. Is this really how we want the neighbourhood to look like going forward and forever?”
Tuesday night’s meeting was for information purposes only. Councillors won’t make a decision until planning staff completes a review of the application. Currently, the township is accepting public input on the proposal. The matter will return to council later in the year.

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