The borough of Côte-des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-de-Grâce needs clear rules around the sale and development of church properties that would forbid demolitions and preserve the green space around them, says Projet Montréal councillor Peter McQueen.
McQueen said he will introduce a motion at the next borough council meeting to address this issue, which he believes is a growing community concern.
"It's time for the borough to lay down some very basic ground rules here on what various denominations that might be selling their churches in NDG in the coming years can expect and let them know that the community values these churches," he said.
"I want the borough to send a signal to potential developers that we're not going to allow them to tear down the churches, we're not going to allow them to fill up adjoining green space with condos."
The push for the motion comes in part from the looming sale of Trinity Memorial Church on Sherbrooke Street West.
Last November, the Anglican Diocese of Montreal announced that it was closing the 90-year-old church, citing its inability to "ensure financial substantiality."
Once able to draw a capacity crowd on Sundays in its prime, the 1,000-seat church recently shrunk to a fraction of that.
Trinity opened in 1926 and was dedicated as a memorial to soldiers who died in World War I. It is classified as a Class B Heritage building.
As the home of the NDG Food Depot, McQueen said Trinity Memorial continues to serve an important community function — and that needs to be maintained.
"The community would like to see this kind of serving continue and not just switch to private development," the councillor said.
Establishing rules around the sale of such a church would help the borough avoid the kind of problems it experienced around the sale and proposed demolition of St-Columba Church, McQueen said.
Tax-free status gives community a say, councillor says
Given the tax-free status that churches enjoy, McQueen said communities should have a voice in how they are developed.
Bill Gray, archdeacon of the Anglican Diocese of Montreal, said churches like Trinity gave back over their years of service by providing space to community groups like the NDG Food Depot.
Gray said he would be happy to save Trinity from the wrecking ball, but that won't be accomplished by tying the church's hands.
"Because of the lack of affordability of the property, it would probably fall into disuse and disrepair and the building would indeed become an eyesore and problem for the neighbourhood," he said.
Gray said the archdiocese would need the option to develop the grounds around the church to offset the costs of keeping the church open.