City of Kamloops unlikely to buy church for community use

The Westsyde Community Development Society has approached the city, asking that it purchase the Kingdom Hall on Franklin Road, which is for sale with an asking price of $845,000

The Westsyde Community Development Society wants help securing new space after it and other groups were displaced with the re-opening last September of Westsyde elementary.

Westsyde Community Development Society president Diane Kuchma said the society previously utilized the school at 3550 Westsyde Rd. and has since been renting space at Westsyde Fellowship Church.

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However, she said rental prices are steep and uncertainty remains about long-term availability.

When the society noticed the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses church, at 779 Franklin Rd. in Westsyde, was for sale, it thought the building could be utilized by community groups in Westsyde, North Kamloops and Brocklehurst.

KTW attempted to contact the church, but its phone mailbox was full. However, according to BC Assessment, the property in 2020 was assessed at $682,000.

Coldwell Banker is the listing real estate agent and the asking price for the property is $845,000.

The 28,000-square-foot parcel is the equivalent of more than a half-acre and, according to the listing agent, the city will consider rezoning the land for residential use.

As of now, the property is zoned P-2, which allows churches, day-care operations and schools. The 5,400-square-foot building includes an entry-level, 3,700-square-foot hall and a second-level, 1,700-square-foot suite with multiple bedrooms.

“We saw it for sale, we looked at the property and we said, ‘Wouldn’t that be perfect?’” Kuchma said.

Kuchma said she emailed city council, asking the city to purchase the building and operate it similar to other facilities, wherein the city rents out space. She said the society could not purchase the building on its own as it does not have the manpower to run the facility, which she said would benefit more than the Westsyde Community Development Society.

“There was a lot of us that got displaced when they took the school [Westsyde elementary] back,” Kuchma said.

“It was so great having a community centre. The cadets got displaced, they’re way out in Heffley. They’ve lost half their membership because of the fact they’re so far out. They’re struggling.”

But the city does not appear receptive to the real estate idea.

Coun. Bill Sarai said that upon receiving the community request, the mayor replied that the city is not currently in the business of buying real estate to accommodate user groups.

“I can’t see us buying a building to house a group,” Sarai said. “It’s just not financially beneficial to the taxpayers.”

Coun. Arjun Singh noted issues that have arisen recently with respect to the use of the former Stuart Wood school downtown.

A day care had asked to use the vacant space, but its bid was rejected by council due to the future of the Crown property being a joint city-Tk’emlups te Secwépemc venture.

“I think we have to be careful as to what we’re doing around buying buildings for one group and not buying them for another,” Singh said.

© Kamloops This Week


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