Brunswick church proposes $4.75M event center

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BRUNSWICK — St. John the Baptist Catholic Church is proposing a $4.75 million, 14,700-square-foot event center.

Although the idea for the project at 39 Pleasant St. has been around for about 10 years, according to parishioner Charlie Wiercinski, it went before the Planning Board for the first time Tuesday, April 26.

The preliminary plans, submitted to the board by the project engineer, Sitelines, call for a two-phase project.

The first phase would be building the center on the west side of All Saints Parish’s approximately 4.5-acre property. The building will house a gymnasium, stage, music room, kitchen, chapel, meeting room, locker rooms and bathrooms.

The second phase would be demolition of an old convent and St. John’s school and replacement of them by a two-story, 13,200-square-foot school. The current parking layout, which accommodates 150 vehicles, would be redesigned to accommodate 174.

The parish has about $940,000 on hand, according to the project’s website, and would have to raise the rest of the project’s cost.

Wiercinski, a former president of Sitelines, represented the project Tuesday evening as a volunteer. He indicated the parish is likely to submit a sketch plan for the first phase, as well as an outline for a common development plan.

A common development plan involves multiple buildings on a tract of land that will be built over time by a single developer. According to Board Chairman Charlie Frizzle, the plan would allow the developer and Planning Board to solidify aspects of the development, including building design, parking, and landscaping, in a document that will apply to all future phases of the project.

The only time the common development plan process has been used in Brunswick was by Priority Real Estate Group for lots at Brunswick Landing, according to Frizzle.

The common development plan also preserves existing zoning regulations for future projects on the site. This could be important, several board members noted, because the town is now rewriting its zoning ordinance.

Comments during the workshop indicated that zoning may be a concern of church neighbors.

High Street Resident Laura Lienert, who is vice president of the NorthWest Brunswick Neighborhood Association, noted that although the project falls in the Intown Railroad Corridor zone, which permits developments up to 20,000 square feet, about 48 percent of the property falls in the Inner Pleasant Street zone.

That zone only allows building footprints up to 7,500 square feet.

“(If one) moves 2 feet this way, now the whole thing’s changed,” she said. “(This project) really changes the landscape of that very residential portion of Pleasant Street.”

If a common development plan were approved under the current zoning interpretation, she said, the more lenient zoning would apply to future project phases.

Frizzle said an appeal of the zoning determination could be filed when a formal application is submitted.

After the meeting, site agent Kevin Clark, of Sitelines, said the church would likely come back to the board in June with a sketch plan for the first phase of development, and the common development plan for the site.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

This rendering shows the proposed event center, right, at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on Pleasant Street in Brunswick.

Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.