Let me be honest with you – this is an adventure that comes with many challenges! There are things that you will learn about that you never thought in your wildest dreams that you would ever even care to know.
All about zoning – (changes/variances, applications, meetings, reports, hearings, official plan, bylaws, Planner, Chief Building Official, Architect/Engineer, BCIN, Lawyers, presenting your case, letters, intentions, neighbours) All I can say is prepare to do some reading and be patient.
Bylaws and building codes – Do some reading about this before you start the project. It is best to be informed and ready for things like needing to replace the septic system so it is up to building code. Although there were 100 people or more gathering in the building for over 100 years, if it is an old system – you will be required to upgrade based on number of fixtures (toilets, sinks etc) as well as bedrooms and square footage (even if it is just for two people). Bylaws are different from town to town and things that you could have in your previous house may be against the bylaw in this area. You can usually find the bylaws on the website for the municipality. Go over them ahead of time – I was glad I did.
Contractors – Working with a multitude of contractors and tradespeople varies from professionals who treat you with respect to those who hope that you are naive and want to take you for a ride. Know your stuff. There is so much to read out there. One of the books I read was Mike Holmes “Make It Right” and he does have some good advice. Read, ask people you trust and go with recommendations when you can.
Money – Make sure you have enough for the extras. We haven’t even started the renovations yet and already the original quotes have been adjusted once they realized “this or that”.
Mortgage – Although buying a church to renovate into a home isn’t THAT unusual – it doesn’t fit into the pull-down menus of many banks and lending facilities. Plus, I have recently discovered that they will only lend you a certain percentage for “improvements” – even if that is for a new septic system, walls for a bedroom and a place to bathe. Be ready, get pre-approved and sign papers to avoid any last minute issues.
Insurance – Get everything you can sorted out early and never assume that it will be standard. Again with the “pull-down menus”. It is difficult for many corporations to understand why you would need a space like that unless it was profit-motivated.
Get to know the congregation – they are amazing people and understand you when no one else does. They have an emotional tie to the building and want someone who will respect and appreciate it. I want it to continue to be a place the the community can visit and break bread (or at least have a pot-luck). I want friends and family to enjoy the space with me and share in music and laughter and good food.
Never lose sight of the goal and keep that passion strong. Talk about it to friends; they will be so excited for you and will remind you of why you are doing all of this.
It is a dream that I have had for most of my life. It is finally coming true and no roadblocks are gonna stop us! Stay strong; be as prepared as you can and be ready for anything.