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What’s next for historic Wilton church?

  • The Revs. Robin Lunn and Shayna Appel tour the Sacred Heart Church in Wilton on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016, where they hope to make a new kind of community space. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, June 15, 2017

Wilton residents Christina Rubio-Sprague and John Sprague may have the answer to a question that has lingered since the Catholic diocese decided to close the Sacred Heart Church: What is to become of the historic building and parish?

If Rubio-Sprague and Sprague are able to get the needed approvals from the town, it will become part apartments, part educational center for adults with developmental or learning disabilities. 

But the Zoning Board wants more concrete information provided to them before their willing to grant the variances the couple will need to achieve that, board Chair Neil Faiman said during a public hearing on Tuesday night.

“Understanding your intention is good, but we’re not voting on your intention. We’re voting on specifics,” said Faiman, after listening to a presentation by Rubio-Sprague that outlined their plans for the building. 

The plan, Rubio-Sprague told the board was to turn the parish house, which shared the church property but is in a separate building, into two apartments. The bottom half of the church, which now contains a kitchen and cafeteria, would be renovated into three more apartments, leaving the sacristy upstairs mostly intact to serve as a space for classes, which Rubio-Sprague described as “teaching life skills” and making products or crafts that could also be sold from the building as a way to create income for the students. 

This is the second time a potential use for the church has been proposed. A previous plan to turn the church into a cafe, co-working and event space fell through when Robin Lunn, who was proposing the plan, was unable to come to a sales agreement with the diocese for the building. 

The board pressed Sprague and Rubio-Sprague for details about the educational and business portion of the plan. She was able to offer some of their plans, including that the classes will be about 10 students each, that activities wouldn’t extend past 6 or 7 p.m., and that they would likely be held five days a week. 

The only resident who spoke at the meeting was Susan Childress, who lives across the street from the church, who asked that the board “really be careful and look to the future” when they considered the application, saying that allowing retail and educational purposes could potentially lead to bigger impacts down the road if Sprague and Rubio-Sprague ever sold the building. She also mentioned that an additional five residences could have a big impact on the neighborhood. 

The board didn’t offer any specific objections to these plans, but told Rubio-Sprague they would need more concrete plans, and a clearer picture of the educational and business aspects in order to determine whether the plans would be detrimental to the neighborhood. The board voted to continue the hearing, to allow Sprague and Rubio-Sprague to put together supplementary documents. They specifically asked for a complete parking plan, hours of operation, anticipated number of clients and employees, information on lights and signs, as well as the number of bedrooms anticipated in the apartments.

Rubio-Sprague agreed to the board’s request for a site visit, and the meeting was continued to July 8 at 9 a.m. at the former Sacred Heart, followed by a continuation of the public hearing on July 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the fire station. 

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.