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Brunswick church OK'd to rebuild after 2011 fire

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Brunswick church OK'd to rebuild after 2011 fire

BRUNSWICK — Nearly two years after a fire destroyed the Unitarian Universalist Church, the congregation has been authorized to rebuild on Pleasant Street.

The Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously approved the church's application for a nearly 8,700-square-foot building at 15 Pleasant St. and 5 Middle St.

The board also unanimously approved the church's request to demolish the 100-year-old Pennell House, which will allow the church to move ahead with its construction plans.

The Rev. Sylvia Stocker on Wednesday said she is "relieved and excited" about the Planning Board's decision.

"It just moves us a lot closer to our dream," said Stocker, who was joined by several congregants at Tuesday night's meeting. "... People were very happy and relieved. It seemed like a big hoop to get through."

Stocker said the church is now waiting for its construction contractor, Langford & Low, to receive subcontractor quotes for the final construction budget and make any adjustments if it exceeds or falls below $1.85 million.

After the church's building team completes its final plan and budget, Stocker said her congregation will likely vote on the two items by May 5.

"Our congregation is governed democratically, so the congregation has to make the final approval," Stocker said. "They have to approve the plans and the spending of funds."

Planning Board Chairman Charles Frizzle said if any major changes are made to the church's plan, it would have to go back to the board for another approval.

Stocker said she doesn't know when construction of the new church will begin, but it will take approximately nine months.

The construction schedule will have to take into account the demolition of Pennell House. The building was recently used as the congregation's office space, meeting rooms and Sunday School.

But because original plans to build a new church that would connect to Pennell House were too costly, the congregation decided to replace that building and create a larger footprint for the church.

Stocker said the church attempted to give Pennell House away for free to avoid demolition because of the building's historical value, but no one took the offer.

"We had a couple of calls and no one was able to come up with a plan or money," she said.

Stocker said the church will likely hold some kind of event for Pennell House before it is demolished.

The Unitarian congregation has been worshipping at the Beth Israel Congregation Minnie Brown Center in Bath since its 126-year-old church was destroyed in June 2011.

"That's where we have our Sunday services, and the temple has been gracious, accommodating and welcoming," Stocker said. "We feel very deeply grateful for them to give us a temporary location."

Overall, Stocker said, the congregation's spirits have been high.

"They're an irrepressible bunch of people," Stocker said. "They're creative and energetic, and they have a good attitude."

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or dmartin@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.