By Chris Pickup

Caledonia’s Gateway Church congregation is growing fast and needs more space for expansion. The original membership of the relatively new church (established in 2006) was 200, now sits at 600 and is expected to grow to a future 800.

The existing church only has seating for 400 people with three portable classrooms and 110 parking spaces.

The church proposes to expand into the abutting lands, however councillors had some concerns that it is zoned agricultural. The expansion land is part of a farm and is currently being farmed.

The church had conducted a review of the surrounding area for lands not within agricultural zoning, and what was available either did not permit institutional use, or was not large enough to accommodate the expansion. There is simply no alternative viable option.

County staff concluded the removal of lands from the farm and agricultural production is not considered to have a negative impact on viability of the farm operation. Nor will it create any restrictions on surrounding business operations.

Mayor Hewitt noted that while he supports protection of agricultural land, the church has provided tremendous service to the community.

“This is really important for the community,”  said councillor Craig Grice, who is not a member of the church, but whose son has attended  programs there.

“They really care about the community. They do things beyond what their faith might be.”

The expansion will add another auditorium with seating for 800, an additional classroom, plus another 270 parking spaces.

The expansion was approved 7-0.