Eighty five per cent of the church, and its entire rectory was updated with vinyl siding before it was handed the heritage designation. (Susan Jack)

An Anglican church on the west side of Saint John wants to drop its heritage status, because it can't afford to renovate the 191 year old building under the city's heritage requirements.

The cedar shingles on the east wall of St. George's-St. Jude's Church are peeling, and need to be replaced. But when the congregation fundraised approximately $2,800 to replace the shingles with vinyl siding, its application for a permit from the city was rejected because the church is part of a heritage conservation area.

The church warden, Susan Jack, was told the heritage bylaws state that exterior renovations need to keep with the building's architecture.

She said painting and repairing the decaying wall would be double the cost of replacing it with vinyl siding.

"We would have to go back to originally what the building was clad in, and I know that would be expensive," said Jack.

Vinyl siding was installed on approximately 85 per cent of the church, and its entire rectory was updated before it was handed the heritage designation.

Jack said the congregation may be forced to switch back to wood shingles if the newer siding needs further upgrades.

"If we can't get out of the conservation area, I will have to paint, knowing that in a few years I'll be painting again. If we are allowed to be removed from the heritage conservation area then we'll go ahead with the siding," she said.

Ward 3 Coun. and heritage board member, Donna Reardon, said the board will look at the church's request.

"The vinyl would not be something that would be approved by heritage. So the conundrum is how can we facilitate this for them," said Reardon.

Reardon said she sympathizes with the church's financial challenges amidst dwindling membership, however she said city council will have the final word on whether a building that has been around for nearly two centuries can drop its heritage designation.

"If you can't put on a reasonable priced siding, what happens to the building — does it just get abandoned and deteriorate? I don't know, so it's a real issue," she said.