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ZBA approves Divine Mercy plan

Leaders of Divine Mercy Parish met with the Peterborough Zoning Board of Adjustment about the church's plans for a new building

Leaders of Divine Mercy Parish met with the Peterborough Zoning Board of Adjustment about the church's plans for a new building Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

PETERBOROUGH — The Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously gave the go-ahead on Wednesday for the Divine Mercy Parish to build a new church on a seven-acre site, the former home of the Lobacki poultry farm, off Route 101.

The Rev. Gerald Belanger, pastor for Divine Mercy Parish, told the board that the parish, which was created seven years ago when St. Peter Parish of Peterborough, St. Patrick Parish in Bennington and the summer parish of St. Denis in Harrisville were merged, draws about 160 people to each of its three weekend Masses. He said the proposed building, which is still in the design stage, would seat about 300 people in the sanctuary. A separate meeting hall will hold about 150 people and a corridor between the two sections will contain office space.

“The excitement is evident,” Belanger said at the meeting, which was attended by about a dozen of the church’s parishioners. “The new complex will allow us to host a blood drive or do a community supper; things we cannot do now.”

Belanger said the church holds a Mass on Saturday and two on Sunday mornings, with religious education classes held between the two Sunday services. He said the church generally needs to accommodate about 100 cars for its services at its current sanctuary on Vine Street. The plan for the new church calls for a 150-vehicle parking lot.

Attorney Thomas Hanna of Keene, representing the church, said the initial request for 200 parking spaces had been scaled back.

“That many spaces seemed unnecessary, and obviously would be more expensive,” Hanna said.

The first special exception was to have a church in the general residential district. Churches are a permitted use, but only by special exception.

The second request was to have the access road run through a section of the lot that’s in the shoreland conservation district. Hanna said that request was identical to one granted by the ZBA in 2007, when the owners of the property proposed a condominium development on 15 acres, including the land that the church now intends to buy. That project was never built and an extension on the special exception approval eventually lapsed.

When the meeting was opened for public comment, no one spoke against the proposal. Hanna said all the abutters to the land had been invited to an earlier information meeting that the church held, and that the church had not heard any negative feedback.

David Buck, a member of the church from Peterborough, also said no one had objected to the plan.

“We have been crowded,” Buck said. “We’ve been concerned about people with disabilities accessing our hall. This site seems to be the perfect fit for us.”

ZBA members unanimously approved the two special exceptions.

“I think this will have less of an impact than a condo development,” said member Peter Leishman. “I’m totally in favor of it.”

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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