The first Coptic monastery in Western Canada could be built just east of Red Deer.
To be known as the St. George and St. Paul The Anchorite Monastery, a rezoning bylaw necessary for the project to go ahead was given second reading by Red Deer County council on Tuesday.
The monastery, about five kilometres east of the city just south of Highway 11, will be part of the diocese of Mississauga, Vancouver and Western Canada.
The website for the church says the monastery “will bring the authentic monastic life that was established by St. Anthony The Great in Egypt (270 AD) to Western Canada. The monastery will provide a variety of spiritual and social services to the Coptic and Christian communities of Western Canada.”
The first phase of development is expected to include a private chapel with a 50-person capacity and accommodations for seven residents. A dormitory for temporary stays of up to a week will also be built to house 20 to 30 people a week in the summer and 10 to 20 people in the winter.
A second phase would see additional residential quarters built for three more residents. The dormitory would also be expanded.
The third phase will see the church expanded to accommodate 150 to 200 people.
The monastery, dormitories, chapel and other church buildings will be located on 24 acres of the 144-acre parcel. The remaining 120 acres will remain as agricultural land under the direct control zoning planning staff proposed for the project.
A letter of concern was received by the county, which raised potential issues with increased traffic in the area, interference in farm operations and a desire to preserve farmland.
Members of council also sought assurances that the 120 acres set aside for agriculture would be used for farmland.
County manager Curtis Herzberg said the zoning application makes it clear that the 120 acres will continue to be farmed as the monastery proponents had planned. Should there be any desire to change the use of the agricultural land it would have to come back before council.
Councillors also wanted to know what will happen as traffic to the monastery site increases as it expands and there is a need to pave the road.
Herzberg said as phases of the development are approved, updated traffic impact assessments may be required. Once there is enough traffic that paving is required, that would be at the developer’s cost.
Herzberg recommended that council give the rezoning second reading and wait before approving third and final reading.
That will give time for the county and monastery proponents to address any neighbour concerns and for planners to clarify the issues around agricultural land.
Pope Tawadros II established the first Coptic Orthodox Diocese in Canada in 2013. The Coptic church is an orthodox Christian church founded in Egypt and has about 25 million followers worldwide.