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Assembly land owners get equal treatment

Local faith groups received what they had requested on Tuesday night, when council unanimously passed a resolution relating to the future rezoning of public assembly lands.

Tuesday’s resolution effectively means that any owner of public assembly lands can make a rezoning application to the city, and will receive consideration based on the merits of the application and be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Contrary to a staff report which claimed “the threat of the loss of assembly lands is real”, councillors perceived no such threat. The reality of the situation is that only one of the nearly three dozen potentially-affected owners of public assembly lands had plans to sell and skip town, councillors were told.

“It’s an anomaly,” said Coun. Bill McNulty, chair of the city’s planning committee. “It started off as if the churches were the bad brothers, and it’s totally wrong.”

Council also officially changed the city’s position on the redesignation of community institutional sites, which had previously been discouraged and will now be dealt with as all other development applications.

When the issue first surfaced nearly 18 months ago, staff recommended that owners of public assembly lands who were seeking any sort of rezoning, be required to finance, build and manage social housing on a portion of their property.

This sparked an outcry from local churches, who came together to oppose the city’s position.

After numerous meetings with city representatives, the faith groups spoke in united fashion at last week’s planning committee meeting, requesting that they be dealt with in the same way that other land owners are.

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