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Angus church could be converted for Habitat for Humanity project

Organization will purchase Margaret Street properties and develop lots themselves by 'repurposing and revitalizing' former Zion Presbyterian Church
Wynstar Developments has partnered with Habitat for Humanity Huronia to renovate the Zion Presbyterian Church as part of its proposed development in Angus at 14 and 18 Margaret St.

If everything goes as planned, Habitat for Humanity will be able to provide seven new homes to families in Angus in the near future.

Wynstar Developments has advised Essa Township that it has partnered with Habitat for Humanity Huronia and will convert the former Zion Presbyterian Church, located in Angus at 14 Margaret St., into three housing units for the not-for-profit charity. 

The developer had previously committed to building four housing units for Habitat for Humanity on the site, which includes the neighbouring property at 18 Margaret St.

Innovative Planning Solutions (IPS), on behalf of Wynstar, has made its final submission for Official Plan and zoning-bylaw amendments for the two Angus properties.

The Official Plan amendment would redesignate the properties from institutional to multiple residential, and the amendment to the township’s zoning bylaw would move it to the residential medium-density townhouses with special provisions zone.

The proposed amendments would allow Wynstar to construct a total of 37 residential units between 14 and 18 Margaret St. The special provisions would allow for reduced rear yards and some front yards. 

2020-03-25 Habitat Cikoja RB 1
Habitat for Humanity Huronia chief executive officer Robert Cikoja is shown in a file photo. | Raymond Bowe/BarrieToday

The submission will be heard tonight (Dec. 6) at the regular session of Essa Township council.

“Wynstar has submitted applications for township consideration to redevelop their lands at 14 and 18 Margaret St. in Angus, and although not called upon to, reached out to see if there was an opportunity to partner with our organization.” Robert Cikoja, chief operating officer for Habitat for Humanity Huronia wrote in a letter to Essa Township council.

“In their plan, they have allocated seven units to partner with us, providing many new families with homeownership opportunities," he added. "The partnership included the revitalization and repurposing of the former church building that will, with township approval, be converted into family units.”

According to the application, Habitat for Humanity has provided Wynstar Developments with a letter of intent stating that, once the Official Plan amendment, zoning-bylaw amendment and consents have been passed and take effect, Habitat for Humanity will purchase the properties and develop the lots themselves by 'repurposing and revitalizing' the former church. 

The Zion Presbyterian Church was sold to Wynstar Developments on Dec. 12, 2018. 

Wynstar made its first development proposal to Essa Township in 2020 and has made three more since then. This application is the fifth version.

Wynstar had originally proposed 26 residential units consisting of back-to-back townhouse units and block townhomes on 14 Margaret St., with the rear-facing units stretching along a private laneway. They proposed to merge 14 and 18 Margaret into one lot containing the residential units. 

At a public meeting on Dec. 16, 2020, members of the public said the church was an important part of Angus and is historically and culturally significant. They presented a petition urging the owners to preserve the building rather than tear it down.

In response, Wynstar resubmitted a proposal to preserve the church building by converting the structure into a multi-residential building that will contain the three units earmarked for Habitat for Humanity. Included in the resubmission is a cultural heritage impact assessment, which recommends that a temporary protection plan (TPP) be prepared as part of the construction plan. 

A temporary protection plan is required when heritage buildings are to be physically modified or where construction work is happening in the vicinity of a heritage building. It is necessary to prescribe methods to protect the heritage building from vibration, dust, potential physical impact and underground construction.

Wynstar has also provided Essa Township with an updated conceptual site plan and updated draft Official Plan and zoning bylaw schedules with updates that reflect the effort to preserve the church and an increase to the proposed parking. 

Essa Township planning staff have given the application the green light.

“Planning staff believes that all comments and concerns have been addressed for approval of a (zoning-bylaw amendment) and (Official Plan amendment),” wrote Owen Curnew, development planner for the township.

“The applicant is required to submit future planning applications in the form of consent applications and a site-plan control application," Curnew added. "Appropriate conditions will be imposed as the proposed development progresses to building permits and construction.”

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Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Wayne Doyle, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Wayne Doyle covers the townships of Springwater, Oro-Medonte and Essa for BarrieToday under the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI), which is funded by the Government of Canada
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