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Former Sacred Heart Church to become apartments

  • The Wilton Zoning Board approved a variance needed to convert the former Sacred Heart Church and parish into a five-apartment complex during its meeting on Tuesday night. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The Wilton Zoning Board approved a variance needed to convert the former Sacred Heart Church and parish into a five-apartment complex during its meeting on Tuesday night. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The Wilton Zoning Board approved a variance needed to convert the former Sacred Heart Church and parish into a five-apartment complex during its meeting on Tuesday night. (Ashley Saari / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • 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

  • 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
Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The owners of the former Sacred Heart Church has gotten the first set of approvals to renovate the church and parish into a five-apartment complex.

John Sprague and Christina Rubio-Sprague appeared before the Wilton Zoning Board on Tuesday night to present their revised plan for the property. Their proposal had been reduced from a previous plan which would have turned the church sanctuary into an educational center for adults with learning or developmental disabilities, as well as a space to commercially sell products made by those students.

The updated proposal eliminated that portion of the plan, leaving two planned apartments in the parish, three within the bottom level of the church, and allows the use of the sanctuary space as a office/workshop space for the owner’s use.

“We decided to pull that option out and focus on what makes sense in this neighborhood,” said Rubio-Sprague, regarding the couple’s decision to downsize the plan.

The board indicated that this decision eliminated many of the questions they had previously put to Rubio-Sprague regarding the impact to the neighborhood.

“I had more concerns when there was a proposed commercial use,” said Zoning Board member Bob Spear. “The flavor of the neighborhood is residential. I support this over what was previously proposed.”

Chair Neil Faiman agreed. “Given a blank piece of paper, I would not be thrilled with a five-apartment dwelling on a half-acre,” he said. “But we’re not looking at a blank piece of paper. That’s why we’re here.” 

Some members of the audience still voiced concerns about the impact the development would have, however.

Jeff Stone, a Zoning Board member who recused himself due to living in the neighborhood, spoke as a member of the audience, asking the board to consider the parking on Maple Street, which already can get glutted, particularly when Jellison’s Funeral Home is holding a funeral or the American Legion an event. 

Rubio-Sprague provided the board with a sketch of up to 17 potential parking spaces for the apartments — the zoning ordinance would require two from each apartment, plus two for the office space. Rubio Sprague indicated that the couple didn’t have any desire to use all 17 spaces, but wanted to show that they have the capacity for the proposed apartments on site, and will leave it to the Planning Board and their architect to determine the best configuration of spaces. 

Neighbor Dawn Beyer raised objections, including that the parking plan would leave no green space, and that the use could affect her property values. Though the board took her comment into consideration, they did not find it sufficient evidence that it would have an impact on property values without some type of evidence to bolster the claim, suggesting that there were other multi-family uses in the neighborhood, including one five-family dwelling already, and that the use was in the character of the area.

The board did lay out some restrictions for the property, however, including that there be no signage except for parking markers, that there be no additional lighting added except as required by the building code, that the office space be limited to use by the owners with no employees, and that the exterior architecture of the former church building be kept in tact. 

The board unanimously agreed to grant the requested variance for a mixed-use building in the residential zone, allowing the five apartments, with those conditions. Sprague and Rubio-Sprague must still go through a site-plan review process with the Planning Board before gaining final approval.

 

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