Room for God at Apex

Coun­cil to vote on mea­sure al­low­ing The Pier church to lo­cate at west-end build­ing

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - NEWS - RON­ALD ZAJAC Rza­jac@post­media.com

It may not fit ex­actly with the of­fi­cial plan, but there’s still room in a west-end in­dus­trial build­ing for the Almighty.

City coun­cil­lors will vote Tues­day on a mo­tion to al­low The Pier Chris­tian Church to use part of the Apex Build­ing, at 100 Strowger Boule­vard, as a place of wor­ship.

Coun­cil­lors this week made the rec­om­men­da­tion de­spite the ad­vice of city plan­ners.

“I think it is step­ping out of the box,” said Mayor David Hen­der­son, who said the staff rec­om­men­da­tion to deny the ap­pli­ca­tion was city hall be­ing too rigid.

The church, which cur­rently con­ducts its ser­vices at the Brockville Arts Cen­tre, is hop­ing to move into what will be a ren­o­vated sec­tion of the west-end build­ing owned by Jag Chawla.

Chawla plans to ren­o­vate 53,000 square feet of the build­ing, which has an over­all area of 450,000 square feet, and turn that smaller sec­tion into a sort of hub for non­profit agen­cies.

The Pier plans to rent part of that area for of­fice space.

The con­cept also in­cludes a gym­na­sium-like com­mon area which the church would like to use for Sun­day wor­ship.

The Pier cur­rently op­er­ates out of three dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions: 51 King Street East for of­fices; 25 Front Av­enue for its daily noon feed­ing and so­cial pro­gram; and the arts cen­tre for its Sun­day ser­vices.

The Pier’s lead pas­tor, Jonathan Zinck, said the church wants to be part of a “holis­tic” oper­a­tion work­ing with other com­mu­nity agen­cies.

“It’s not about a church just want­ing a place to put a church,” he told coun­cil on Tues­day.

But An­drew McGin­nis, a city plan­ner, said of­fi­cials “hit a few road­blocks” try­ing to ac­com­mo­date the church’s re­quest.

Crit­i­cal among these is the fact the city is try­ing to in­crease its stock of em­ploy­ment lands – prop­erty zoned for in­dus­trial em­ploy­ers – and this pro­posal takes up some of that space.

“By per­mit­ting this use, you’re tak­ing em­ploy­ment lands away,” said McGin­nis.

Hen­der­son had dif­fi­culty squar­ing that per­cep­tion with the con­text of this ap­pli­ca­tion.

“I’m not clear how that is dis­plac­ing em­ploy­ment,” said the mayor.

“I think we’re re­ally squeez­ing the rules on this.”

Coun­cil­lor Ja­son Baker, while not­ing “it’s re­ally hard not to want to cheer for them and sup­port them,” wor­ried the city would set a prece­dent.

“This build­ing is go­ing from be­ing a man­u­fac­tur­ing build­ing to some other form of use,” he said.

Coun­cil­lors ul­ti­mately backed a re­vised rec­om­men­da­tion to add a new site spe­cific pol­icy to per­mit a “place of wor­ship” at the site, which is not to ex­ceed 930 square me­tres, (10,000 square feet).

While coun­cil­lors met in full ses­sion, the dis­cus­sion was treated as a sub­com­mit­tee mat­ter for pro­ce­dural rea­sons, mean­ing coun­cil must put the mat­ter to a fi­nal vote next week.

RON­ALD ZAJAC/THE RECORDER AND TIMES

Jonathan Zinck, lead pas­tor at The Pier Chris­tian Church, speaks to city coun­cil­lors on Tues­day.

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