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Lantzville daycare evicted from church despite $350K in reserve

“You can go to a lot of buildings in Victoria that are going to be in the same category [as the Lantzville church] which aren’t being evacuated,” says an engineer who assessed the heritage building

Lantzville had set aside $350,000 for upgrading the heritage church that houses one of the community’s few daycares, but never spent it before serving the daycare with a two-month eviction notice.

The District of Lantzville owns the building. Its chief administrative officer has said there are “life safety concerns” about the building, citing a 2019 report written by engineer Brian McClure of Sorensen Trilogy, who has since lost his licence to practise.

Thinking Garden Early Childhood Centre, the preschool-and-daycare currently renting the space, is contesting the eviction, which has left 25 families scrambling to find daycare.

The Seaside Community Society, the nonprofit that manages the building as well as the town’s community hall, says it’s frustrated by a lack of information from the district.

Society president Shandra Mayes said her request to meet with chief administrative officer Ronald Campbell to discuss the situation was referred to council.

“Is there a plan for the church? Nobody knows,” said Mayes. “Are they just going to let it sit there and rot? Are they going to knock it down because they can’t do anything with it? Because their big argument is that it’s not to code.”

Seismic codes — which determine how strong a building needs to be in the event of an earthquake — vary across the province due to geography and local seismic hazard and often change to reflect researchers’ understandings of risk, said engineer Mike Herold, who did an assessment of the heritage church in 2009.

Seismic-load requirements in the region have increased substantially in recent years, Herold said, adding a new firehall built five years ago in Nanaimo would likely not meet the seismic requirements of today.

“You can go to a lot of buildings in Victoria that are going to be in the same category [as the Lantzville church] which aren’t being evacuated,” said Herold. “There’s buildings all over the province that don’t meet the current seismic [code].”

Lantzville had considered investing $150,000 to upgrade the building in 2016, but those upgrades were not approved at the time, according to Campbell, who did not provide a reason.

There’s now slightly over $350,000 in the fund reserved specifically for the Lantzville Heritage Church, Campbell said.

Mayor Mark Swain said the reserve fund isn’t just for repair — it can also be used for replacement. “But at this point, there’s been no commitment to anything in that regard, whether it’s repair, replacement, or anything.”

Swain declined to comment in detail.

“When we’re ready to make a statement we will have one,” he said. “At this point, I’m not going to make any comments until we have a full media release ready to go.” He did not say when that might happen.

Swain said there was a lot of “misinformation” surrounding the heritage church but declined to give specifics.

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