Council approves variance to allow expansion of Crossroads Life Church

Neighbours express concerns over height, drainage, noise, privacy

HARRISTON – Minto council has approved a minor variance to allow an expansion of Crossroads Life Church here, despite concerns expressed by some neighbouring property owners.

The variance, granted following a committee of adjustment public hearing at the Jan. 31 council meeting, will allow the construction of a 1,040 square foot addition at the rear of the building, located at 99 Young Street West in Harriston.

The church sought the rezoning to facilitate construction of two washrooms and a service centre for refreshments after services.

The addition will also provide more accessible washrooms and more space for children’s programs.

A building department report explains the variance allows a reduced rear yard setback.

The existing required setback is 9.5 m (31.2 feet) and the planned addition is 4.27m (14 feet) from the property line.

The property was originally zoned as industrial and was formerly a cheese factory owned and operated by Maple Leaf Foods Ltd.

When the church purchased the property in 1995, the factory was not in use and it applied for a zoning amendment to rezone the property to a site specific institutional zoning.

Wellington County senior planner Matthieu Daoust told council the planning department has no concerns with the application, which is considered minor and compatible with the county’s official plan.

However, he pointed out, “Town staff have had discussions with the applicant for other alternative locations. However, due to parking constraints, as well as operational efficiency, the proposed location is as proposed.

“I would add, in light of some of the public concerns that have come in,  staff have added a number of conditions to address concerns related to privacy as well as some parking constraints.”

Minto planning coordinator Ashley Sawyer noted existing parking at the property complied with the former Town of Harriston bylaw at the time the original zoning bylaw amendment was passed and use of the church commenced in 1995.

“At that point, the church actually did exceed what was required with the bylaw,” she explained.

“But this expansion will fall under the scope of our current bylaw, which requires one parking space per 100 square feet.

“So as such, an additional 11 parking spaces is required to be provided and town staff have included this as a recommended condition of approval.”

Sawyer added, due to noise and privacy concerns from neighbours, staff recommended a condition that a solid board fence, at least 5.9 feet high, be constructed between the church and residential property lines.

Sawyer also pointed out some neighbouring property owners have concerns about the height of the addition and noted town staff are not opposed to a condition limiting it to one storey.

“Town staff are ultimately recommending the minor variance be approved … with the height limitations up to the committee (of adjustment),” she stated.

Church pastor John Finochio told council other locations for the addition had been considered.

“The entire purpose of the expansion is really to allow our children’s wing. Although it was presented that the washrooms and servery needed expansion, where we are feeling the press is in our children’s ministry … ” Finochio stated.

“We have more kids than we have room and we’re very delighted to have that problem, but the children are in the second floor of our building currently, on that corner of the building.

“We would be happy to try to expand elsewhere, except it just won’t work anywhere else.”

Finochio also noted, “The second floor will not be as high as the larger portion of our building, which is three storeys, so it’s not going to increase the height of the building overall. It will be no higher than the building on that end is, which is only two storeys.”

“We’re very happy to add the parking that we need and we’re very happy to build a fence,” he stated.

Local resident Brock Shannon noted the church had addressed some drainage concerns a few years ago but the new addition would be located “right over top of that drain.”

Shannon asked if a new drain was being considered “because when, when the snow gets pushed back there, and in the spring, it mostly just runs back into the neighbour’s yard.”

“When you have as much land as this, is it really needed to go out the back instead of up front? Because there seems to be a lot of room out in front,” Shannon suggested.

“Our understanding that is that it is a private property and a private drainage concern,” explained Sawyer.

“That being said, this is something that will be addressed at the building permit stage, not necessarily something that you would include the minor variance stage.”

Director of building and planning services Terry Kuipers also noted there’s no anticipation “that there’s going to be additional snow moved to that location beyond what the current practices are.

“We don’t have any bylaws or regulations in place as to where snow can and can’t be moved or anything like that. It’d be more of a maintenance thing,” he explained.

Local resident Carolyn Kuipers said the possibility of a two-storey addition was not disclosed in information provided about the proposal.

“I was up to the town office at least twice and I got very vague answers to my questions,” she said.

“I did ask how high this addition would be and, basically, I was told one storey. Now it’s a different story.”

“The plan that we received … didn’t indicate a second floor in it. In the institutional zoning, there is no maximum height, and the setback doesn’t vary whether it’s a single storey or two storey,” said Terry Kuipers.

“What we sent over had a page one and page two and page two said upper level. So I don’t know if it was faxed, or if it was delivered by hand, but it was there,” said Finochio.

“I think what needs to be understood is we are in two services now … we’re trying to mitigate any problems … from everybody being in one service.”

Finochio continued, “We’ve tried to distribute the number of people coming over two services, so that we don’t run out of parking, number one, and number two, so that our children’s ministries can accommodate all the children that are coming.

“But we’ve gotten to a point now regardless, we need that extra room.”

Neighbouring resident Tammy Shannon asked about the possibility of increased shadowing from the addition impacting her property.

“So in our world, on the other side of the fence, is the shadowing, is the tree damage that would be done. After 30 years of putting the trees back, do I have to start over?” she asked.

Terry Kuipers replied that any sun shadowing could be expected to fall on the top of the Shannons’ shed and trailer.

“So from an enjoyment of the rear property, I’m not sure if any shadowing that would fall in that area would diminish her enjoyment of her rear yard,” said Kuipers.

However, he added, “I could very well be wrong.”

Finochio responded “as the sun rises, it’s directly east of our building. So it comes up and it would continue to shine down where the building isn’t, into that backyard.

“I think more of a detriment to sun would be a fence … if there’s trees along that side of their yard that there is a concern about, I think the fence would actually be more of a detriment to sunshine hitting it than our building would be.”

Council approved the minor variance in a motion that noted the rear yard setback relief applies only to the proposed addition.

Other conditions in the motion include a requirement for an additional 11 parking spaces and a fence along lot lines shared with neighbouring properties.