The Board of Naramata Centre Society met the weekend of September 6-8. As you are likely aware, the Centre must raise funds to repay our debt to the Pacific Mountain Region of the United Church. In addition, we need funds to renovate or replace many of our aging facilities on the Centre site.
There are two key areas to report on following our September board meeting;
Our plans going forward, based on the Master Site plan presented to us at the board meeting by Modus consultants.
Our discussion of how we welcome and include everyone when they come to be part of our community at the Centre.
We had previously received the Master Site Plan from Rob Barrs at Modus with input from Chris Allen of Landform Architects. We reviewed and discussed it in detail at the board meeting. Rob and Chris answered our questions and provided comments.
A master site plan is designed to provide direction for changes to the site over the next 15-20 years. There were six key themes that arose out of the Charrette held in June, and from our discussions with the design team at our September meeting.
Phase One 1-5 years
Raise the necessary capital for the Centre through the sale of Centre non-core land.
Improve campgrounds and accommodations
Phase Two 5- 10 years
Revitalize and renovate Columbia and Alberta Halls
Create new community space to replace the Gym in Columbia Hall
Consider a new sewage treatment plant and development of the Centre as a demonstration of sustainable living
Phase Three 10-15 years
Co-housing project on the land currently used for septic treatment
At this meeting we focused on phase one.
We were excited when the design team suggested we consider affordable housing on smaller lots as a path to sell non-core Centre land and raise more capital than we would selling it as bare land.
Currently all buildings in the Naramata Village are served by individual septic systems. This means required lot sizes are bigger than if there was a sewage system. The Centre has two main septic fields. One of these has extra capacity, which could be used to service a limited number of smaller lots for affordable housing.
In our view this is a win for the Centre and for the village of Naramata. Currently affordable housing is in short supply in Naramata. Due to the ability to service them with our existing septic system, these lots can be smaller and would have smaller homes built on them. This would make it possible for middle-income families to afford the homes built on those lots.
Sounds great, right? Some of you are probably thinking about signing up. But there is a great deal of work to be done to make this plan a reality. It is likely 18 months to two years before all the design work, rezoning and necessary approvals will be in place. In fact, we will have to invest some funds before we see any returns on this project.
The potential of this plan is, in our view, worth the time it will take. We are immediately beginning the feasibility studies to ensure we can meet the legal and regulatory requirements.
The planning team also recommended that the Centre consider selling the three small lots on the beach, which are between the beach house, which the Centre once owned, and the public beach access right of way. This would leave approximately two thirds of the existing Centre beach for our continued use. If sold the beach lots would likely be used for one home.
Many of you have told us not to sell the beach and we, too, are torn about this option. We understand these feelings. The dilemma we have to grapple with is making sure we realize enough capital through land sales to ensure the Centre stays financially viable as we move through the next three years of site plan implementation. Our repayment of principal and interest to Pacific Mountain Region must begin in 2020.
We have not yet made the decision to sell a portion of the beach. That decision will come as we move through our due diligence and planning for the sale of land for affordable housing.
Campground improvements are not particularly costly compared to some of the other items in the master site plan but we have heard loud and clear from many of you that improvements are needed. In particular, the washrooms and showers need updating to modern standards. Our participants have said they want family-friendly, gender-neutral facilities. We also would like to serve Southside campground and the campground behind East Court more effectively. Improving the washroom access will be one of our first priorities once funds from sale of land become available.
We will provide further information about repair and renovations to Columbia and Alberta Hall in future Newsletters.
The Centre has for decades been a place where all are welcome and we have for some time now served both people of the United Church and others who take a different path to nurture their spirit. How the Centre lives that out is challenging. This summer we have had differing feedback about our approach. Some have said Christian teachings and reference to Jesus Christ need to be more prominent. Others have commented they support a more broad-based approach, while still living out their Christian values. Many of our participants, who no longer attend church, grew up in United Church families. Still others come from different backgrounds but wish to be part of the community, which is created at the Centre.
As a board we reflect this difference in our religious and spiritual expression and are ourselves in dialogue about how, in today’s world, to live out welcoming everyone regardless of their beliefs, while respecting the Christian traditions that founded the Centre. All of our programs serve the Spirit in some way; a number of our programs are directly focused on spiritual expression or Christian celebration.
We will keep you posted on our decisions about land sales and our approach to serving our community. Your thoughts are welcome - please email email@example.com.
Chair, Naramata Centre Society