Laura Keil
Laura Keil, Publisher & Co-owner

By: Laura Keil

The Village of Valemount is re-writing their zoning bylaw to exclude religious assembly from C1 zoning (central commercial zoning). It was unclear whether or not the existing bylaw included churches or not, since it did include “public assembly.” The changes definitively exclude churches as a use from the downtown core (C1 zone).

Of course, the church that currently occupies a space on 5th Ave can continue to operate under a temporary use permit, as it has since 2012. The residents on the Advisory Planning Commission who advised Council on this matter recognized the positive contribution of the church occupying a building that had sat empty.

More than that, the church is contributing to the building owner’s commercial taxes. If the church owned land that was zoned for a church (P3), it would pay no taxes.

With the Saas Fee property and Shop Easy up for sale and with many empty lots still dotting 5th Ave and Main St., it seems Valemount will have no foreseeable trouble coming up with commercial spaces. In the meantime, I’d like to point out that the church is not only paying commercial taxes and occupying a building that had sat empty, it’s also helping to maintain the building, the sidewalks, and the time it is most used (Sundays) is when few other people are downtown. At Christmas time, the church allowed the Crafter’s Guild to sell their products, as well as provided space for vendors during late-night shopping. The church has also hosted open-mic nights, youth activities and the ceremony for The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

While I understand the importance of Council being specific in its language, I hope it can find a way to specifically support this group of residents who have turned on a light in an empty corner of the village.

This church has proven its commitment to the community, and I would suggest finding a way to lengthen the term of their temporary use permit or re-zone to allow them to stay and continue contributing in the way they have been.