Brunswick review board OKs event center proposed by church

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BRUNSWICK — The Village Review Board voted 5-2 Tuesday to issue St. John’s Church/All Saints Parish a certificate of appropriateness to build a nearly 15,000-square-foot event center on Pleasant Street.

Approval by the board came after debate about whether the developer had adequately scaled back the size of the building.  

The Planning Board, which has the authority to decide whether developments satisfy the dimensional requirements of a lot, approved a sketch plan for the first phase of the project July 26. The application will now go back to the Planning Board for final approval of phase 1.

But the Village Review Board, which contemplates whether the mass, scale, and aesthetic of a development is appropriate for the neighborhood, had tabled the matter in September because of concerns over size

Planned at 35-39 Pleasant St., on the site of the existing St. John’s Catholic School, the event center would act as a meeting space for several local parishes, as well as provide amenities for the school. Project designs call for a gym, stage, music room, kitchen, chapel, meeting room, locker rooms and bathrooms.

On Tuesday, developers said they had modified their plans to make the building face “less massive,” and include more landscaping to act as a buffer.

Parents of former students, school volunteers and local clergy attended the meeting to emphasize that the complex is necessary to accommodate a growing need for space among the parishes.

“They need and deserve this project,” retired pastor Joseph Ford said, referring to both the community and the students at St. John’s, where he works three days a week.

But several neighbors showed up to repeat their concerns about the scale of the project, which they argued would intrude into a mostly residential neighborhood.

“I do not in any way want to disrupt the project from happening,” said Hadley Horch, who lives across the street from the site at 44 Pleasant St. “I just wonder about the size and scale of this project,” and the impact that increased traffic and large event functions would have on the neighborhood.

Board members Laura Leinert and Connie Lundquist agreed with Horch, and that the developers had not adequately addressed the board’s prior concerns, “however lovely the building is and however lovely the intention of the building is,” Lundquist said.

Ultimately, those siding with the opinion of Chairman Gary Massanek cast more votes in favor. 

“I do think that they have come a long way in reducing the mass. Yes, it is a big building … but that is permitted by the ordinance,” he said. “I think (the development) is part of a continuum of large-scale buildings that provide a gateway into the downtown portion of the town.”

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100, or at Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.