Potter’s Hands Ministries has preserved its place in downtown Red Deer for another 10 years, although the church’s pastor was praying for more time.
On Wednesday, the city’s municipal planning commission voted to allow Potter’s Hands to continue operating at 5202 53rd Ave. until Feb. 11, 2025. That’s an extension of the church’s original three-year approval, which expired on Feb. 8.
The church has seating for 275 and conducts a Sunday morning service and a smaller meeting on Wednesday evenings. It’s located in Red Deer’s Railyards district, a neighbourhood earmarked in the Greater Downtown Action Plan for development as a “vibrant mixed-use area with emphasis on high-density urban living.”
The location lacks the onsite parking required, but Potter’s Hands pastor Stan Schalk has arranged for members of his congregation to park at nearby Snell & Oslund Surveys, Safe Harbour Society and Bibles for Missions.
City administration recommended that the church be allowed to operate at the site for another 10 years, despite a suggestion from the Greater Downtown Action Plan Steering Committee that the extension be for only three years. The committee expressed concerns about its long-term impact on development in the Railyards district.
George Berry of Berry Architecture & Associates Ltd., which made the application on behalf of Potter’s Hands, argued that the approval shouldn’t include a time limit. He pointed out that the building’s use as a place of worship satisfies the intent of the Greater Downtown Action Plan, the Municipal Development Plan and other city planning documents.
Plus, said Berry, the commission recently authorized All Nations Harvest Church to operate nearby at 5237 54th Ave., with no time restrictions, despite the fact it’s also in the Railyards neighbourhood.
“We’re not quite sure why we have two different rules going for religious assemblies that are literally a stone’s throw apart.”
Schalk said a church would be a suitable use for the site, regardless of how and when the area is redeveloped.
“It’s always been good planing procedure to have churches on prominent corners.”
City planning manager Tara Lodewyk said it’s difficult to say when redevelopment of the Railyards district will occur, but a 10-year approval would allow investment to be made in the property while allowing the city to retain some control.
Coun. Lawrence Lee agreed that such flexibility is important.
“The reality of having a place of worship in this area is, I think, a good one. But we don’t know what’s going to happen … five, 10 years down the road.”
Janice Kong, a citizen representative on the commission, was the only member to vote against the resolution for a 10-year extension. She wanted a longer period, explaining that a church is a good use for the site.
The building dates back to 1959 and is owned by Potter’s Hands Ministries. It was previously used by Robco Cabinets.