Cumberland United Church stands at the corner of Penrith and First. Comox Valley Record file photo

Cumberland council asks for more info on Beacon Project

Some in community concerned about parking, other child care services, neighbourhood look

The Village of Cumberland might be leaning toward a partnership with St. George’s United and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Vancouver Island for the so-called Beacon Project.

While council has not committed yet, it is asking staff to produce a report to address some questions.

The proponents are hoping to use space at the old United Church building at 2688 Penrith Ave. Their vision is to create a hub to provide space for children and youth services, as well as arts, spiritual and other community programming. It also includes plans for up to 60 child care spaces. The plan is to retain the existing structure but add space to make the facility a four-storey building.

Earlier this month, St. George’s United and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Vancouver Island asked council to consider joining as partners as they apply for grants to fund the project. Council did not delve into the issue at the time, but at the Oct. 15 meeting council members discussed next steps.

Coun. Sean Sullivan made a successful motion for staff to prepare the report on partnership options for the Beacon Project.

RELATED STORY: Partners want to turn Cumberland church into community ‘Beacon’

However, some members of council did have questions about what they were asking staff to do. Coun. Vickey Brown questioned whether the Village could agree to move forward on a project that might need variances. She also asked how the Village would partner with the organizations.

Coun. Jesse Ketler also felt there were some gaps around information at this point.

“I’m just wondering … exactly what we’re asking for,” she said. “I’m just not really clear what direction we’re giving tonight.”

As an example, she raised a question about whether the Village would be a landholder for this project. Staff responded that they would look at all possible options in their report.

Brown also wanted to know when the Village’s child care action plan is coming back to council, adding she thought it might influence the grant application for the project, while Ketler asked when council might receive more information about the Beacon.

“I’m sure that staff will cover all the issues that we have talked about tonight,” Mayor Leslie Baird responded.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a few people in the gallery had questions about the plan, citing potential issues such as zoning, what the addition of 60 child care spaces would mean to other service providers, parking and how planned additions to the structure could affect the historic character of the old church and views in the surrounding neighbourhood.

One person in the gallery said the motion seemed presumptuous that the Village is to become a partner on the project, though Baird responded that not joining should be an option in the report.

“We look at all options that are available,” she said.

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