The south-facing facade of Knox United Church would likely be blocked by the proposed development. (Francois Biber/CTV News)

A proposal to subdivide a property that inlcudes a church with a heritage designation will be headed for a provincial review board.

On Monday, city council voted to refer the matter to a heritage review board, after being served with a notice of objection to a proposed development of a 19-storey condo building at 838 Spadina Crescent. The development would be on a portion of the site currently a surface parking lot south and west of Knox United Church.

The church is seeking to subdivide its land to make way for the development, but heritage organizations in the city believe the new condo high-rise will have detrimental effects on the character of the area.

However, it requires an amendment to remove the parking lot portion of the land from the heritage designation, which would leave the church itself with heritage status.

Several people spoke during the virtual council public hearing meeting, both in favour and opposed to the move.

“Knox needs to try to arrange it’s affairs so it can augment it’s income to a more flexible permanent inflation adjusted basis into the future. If Knox can do this it will help maintain the historical structure,” said Marcel De La Gorgendiere, a member of the Board of Directors for Knox United Church.

Gorgendiere disputed claims the building is unsuitable for the location, citing photos of similar developments in other cities and said the development could bring some much-needed funding.

Lenore Swystun, the chair of the Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee said the committee did not support the amendment, though it was not a unanimous decision. She cited concerns about how the designation was being interpreted for the building.

“We believe that the site that was designated in the early 2000s merit the whole of the site, and that the heritage considerations and standards and guidelines for conservation applies to the whole of that site,” Swystun said.

Downtown Business Improvement District executive director Brent Penner said the development would create new opportunities for people to live downtown. He added the area is already home to several condo developments and the tower would be close to many amenities.

Ross Hinther, a member of the church congregation, requested the bylaw amendment not be approved, noting that several members of the congregation were concerned about the proposed development.

Karl Miller, the CEO of Meridian Development Corp. told council their plan is an opportunity to advance progress on the city’s desire for more infill downtown. He said it would not diminish the heritage value of the adjacent church.

“This is simply about land and progress. A gravel parking lot does not belong on our riverbank,” said Miller.

During a discussion over whether to withdraw the application or refer it to the heritage review board, Ward 3 Councillor David Kirton voiced support for withdrawing it, even though it could lead to someone filing another objection causing a delay.

“This is an important piece of property in this city, a very important piece of property. And if it does cost us an extra few months, I don’t have a problem with that,” Kirton said.

Ward 1 Councillor Darren Hill supported the option of a referral. “This has been going on for a number of years, and if we keep kicking it down the road it’s not going to happen or the value is not going to be there. We’re going to see the developer pull out,” Hill said.

Council voted to refer the matter tor futher review. There is no exact timeline on when the matter will be back before city council.