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Renfrew residents rallying against proposed former church site rezoning – Calgary

It’s a corner lot that used to be home to a local church on a residential street in the northeast community of Renfrew, and its future has become a rallying point for those who live in the area.

A rezoning application for the property, at the intersection of Radnor Avenue and Remington Road N.E., has been submitted to the City of Calgary by Keystone Architecture.

According to residents in the area, the rezoning is to make way for a six-storey, 60-unit multi-residential building on the site.

“It’s a big mistake,” Chris Nannarone, who lives across the street from the site, told Global News.

“They’re going from residential bungalows to a six-storey block.”

A group of neighbours have now come together to raise concerns about the rezoning application.

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They’ve circled a petition and are fundraising to ensure they have expert help as the application makes its way to city hall.

Gord Strasdin, who lives down the street from the site, says it feels the transition to a six-storey building on the property is too much for the community, and would prefer the developer explore more ‘missing middle‘ type developments like row-houses or townhomes.

“We understand that development has to be done. We understand that there’s going to be densification in our neighbourhood,” Strasdin said.

“We just think that we should stick to what’s transitional and respectful and contextually sensitive.”

The neighbours told Global News there are several concerns with what could be allowed on the site if the rezoning application is approved.

Those concerns include the size of a potential build and its impact on the quiet neighbourhood street.

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Galina Ursu has three kids that walk to school in the area and said she is concerned with traffic safety.

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“This is a very family friendly area and we’d like to see it like this in the future as well,” she said.

However, the area councillor feels the land is suitable for a higher density build, and said it meets the planning guidelines in the North Hill Communities Local Area Plan.

Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said because the site is located near two schools, a playground and large fields, it makes sense to add density in the area.

“Is it possible to put a six-storey building on this site that enhances, rather than detracts from the neighbourhood? Absolutely,” Carra told Global News. “Is this project going to do that?  We have no idea and that’s what we have to focus on.”

The property was home to the Renfrew United Church for many years before the building fell into “serious disrepair,” according to a post on the United Church’s Chinook Winds Region website.

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The vacant building was taken down this past fall after several incidents of vandalism and break-ins, but the property is still owned by the United Church of Canada.

Carra said he shares in “the outrage of the neighbourhood” about the future of the site because he’d like to see a benefit return to the community, similar to the redevelopment of a former church in Ogden that includes a daycare, a coffee shop, and community space inside.

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“All these things have to be thoughtfully determined. Both in terms of the form of the building, but when you’re talking about a piece of church-owned land, it’s also about the programmatic approach to how are we serving the community,” Carra said.

“There is an obligation there.”

In an email to Global News, a representative of the United Church said it’s still very early in the process and no decisions have been made to determine what will be built on the land if the rezoning is approved.

“We have to rezone in this way because the current church usage was no longer sustainable and we need to do something to steward the land asset properly into the future,” Joel Den Haan, the coordinating consultant for The United Church’s Property and New Church Development Council, said.

“We are intending at this point to retain some church functionality on the site, but it needs to take a new form and needs to be economically viable for us.”

Den Haan said decisions around a build would come during the development permit stage, and the rezoning application is to set a policy envelope “into which a possible project will take shape.”

But Strasdin said there is broad opposition throughout the community for a large development on the site, and the neighbours will continue to work to find a solution.

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“We think we’re quite in line with what the city says they want to do,” Strasdin said. “But we’re a little confused that we keep getting this blunt, big instrument thrown at us.”

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