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Lantzville Heritage Church's fate undecided

The future of Lantzville’s heritage church remains undecided.

The Lantzville Historical Society continues to push for use of the building to create a museum.

The current occupants the Woodgrove Christian Community Church congregation, which sub-leases the space from the Lantzville Seaside Community Society, wants to continue accessing the location it holds worship services.

The building also hosts support group meetings, such as AA, rehearsals, weddings and celebrations of life.

Brian Blood, vice-president of the historical society, said there are limited options to create a museum in the community.

Purchasing a building would be cost-prohibitive and other options, such as using available space in the lower portion of Costin Hall, would create additional construction costs for code requirement upgrades, said Blood.

In a letter to council, Lynne Reeve, president of the historical society, said the lower portion of Costin Hall is also not as visible to residents and visitors and “lacks the charm and architectural integrity of the Old United Church building.”

Coun. Denise Haime said the district offered to pay the costs of enclosing the lower portion, estimated at about $30,000. That would not include other necessary upgrades to bring the area up to code.

The Seaside Community Society leases the buildings for a dollar a year for a 25-year term. The lease expires Dec. 31.

The society receives $4,840 a year through leasing the church and maintains the buildings through volunteer labour.

The society spends about $36,000 a year on maintenance, which doesn’t include capital repairs and maintenance done by volunteers. Haime said based if the district was required to maintain the two structures, costs would rise to about $50,000 to $70,000.

Haime said without revenue received from sub-leasing the church, the Seaside society isn’t economically viable, so severing that could cause both organizations to fail.

If Seaside failed because of lack of revenue, no one would be available to pay for the maintenance expenses except the district, which would require a tax increase of between six and seven per cent, said Haime.

Having all three organizations in the space – the museum in the lower portion of Costin Hall, Seaside on the top floor and the Woodgrove congregation in the church – is the best financial option, Haime said.

Blood said the society remains hopeful it can use the heritage church, especially since council reversed a motion passed by the previous council at the Feb. 28 meeting. That motion instructed staff to adjust wording in the lease for the Costin Hall and Heritage Church property stipulating the church building remain a church no matter who the lessee is.

Blood said he’s glad the motion was overturned.

“It was dangerous for a number of reasons,” he said. “It put our secular local government in the position of making a religious-based decision.”

Steve Wilkinson, pastor of the Woodgrove Christian Community Church, said in an e-mail the congregation wants the matter to be weighed fairly and objectively.

The church recognizes that it is a tenant, having sub-leased the heritage church from the Seaside community, but it also has a sense of investment and involvement.

Although hopeful for a new home, the historical society has stopped accepting artifacts. It is still accepting photographs and documents.

"We would be very nervous about accepting artifacts if they are just going to be permanently in storage,” said Blood. “Until we hear something from council, we’re still not in the position of accepting artifacts.”

Lantzville Mayor Jack de Jong said reversing the decision has given council the freedom to decide how the use the building in the community. He said no decision on the future on the building has been decided yet as there is still time to deliberate the issue before the lease expires.

reporter3@nanaimobulletin.com

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