Cumberland United Church stands at the corner of Penrith and First. File photo

Cumberland waits for child care plan before deciding on Beacon

Village also wants to clarify funding requirements prior to any agreement

Council for the Village of Cumberland is holding off a little longer on a partnership for the so-called Beacon Project until it gets a better idea of how the project matches local needs, especially around caring for children.

Coun. Sean Sullivan successfully made a motion at the Nov. 12 meeting to wait for now. A staff report had recommended waiting for more information about a child care plan and for the Village to clarify funding requirements with the Province. Other issues for them to consider in the meantime include staff time and potential costs to the Village.

“I agree we shouldn’t be in any rush,” Sullivan said.

In September, representatives from St. George’s United Church and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Vancouver Island appeared before council to look for support for the project, which would see the redevelopment of the former United Church building at the corner of Penrith Avenue and First Street. The proponents’ plan for the site is to turn the building into a multi-purpose arts and spiritual centre that can also provide a hub for community services, especially child care.

Some people in the immediate area have questioned the proposed height of the entire structure, which would be four storeys.

As well, a child care provider in the community had concerns about the effect up to 60 child care spaces would have on existing providers. The Beacon would also provide space for youth programs and community food distribution programs.

“I’m glad it’s not being rushed through,” said Coun. Jesse Ketler.

At this point, there are still many issues for the Village. One of these surrounds an action plan considering the provision of child care services in Cumberland, particularly as it grows and attracts young families.

“We don’t expect it to be completed until early next year,” said corporate officer Rachel Parker.

RELATED STORY: Cumberland council asks for more info on Beacon Project

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

At the end of the council meeting, there were still questions raised by the public around the process. However, both council and senior staff said there are guidelines the proponents will have to follow such as having the make applications for the project – for example, to deal with matters such as height variances. There will need to be a long-term agreement in place for any partnership.

“I think there’s also a need for some community consultation,” Coun. Vickey Brown said.

Mayor Leslie Baird agreed about the need to hear more from the public.

“I think when you do that, you get a better product,” she said, adding, “Maybe it needs to done in phases.”

The proposal came before council earlier this fall after St. George’s started working on plans to purchase the old church in Cumberland. One of the roles the Village would have in the partnership for the project is to assist the proponents in accessing funding through the Province to create childcare spaces. The Province has recently increased the amount of money available for such projects.

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