AUGUSTA — Local Jehovah’s Witnesses propose to build a new Kingdom Hall near the intersection of Route 3 and Cross Hill Road to unite two local congregations into one at the proposed new Augusta Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The proposal goes to the Planning Board for a major development review and public hearing Tuesday night .
The proposed 4,600 square-foot new Kingdom Hall — the congregations’ place of worship — would serve about 220 members, bringing together the east and west Augusta congregations that are currently meeting in Augusta and Monmouth.
“We were looking for a bigger area, a better area, for accessibility for two congregations,” said Gary Grard, of Augusta, a congregation member and a coordinator of the project. “We had kind of outgrown the older building. And we wanted something more modern and efficient.”
The proposed new meeting space would be on a 21-acre lot, with an entrance off Cross Hill Road and frontage on both Cross Hill and North Belfast Avenue, which is Route 3.
The previous Jehovah’s Witness hall in Augusta at 36 Eastern Ave. was sold last February, and is now home to the Salvation Army’s Capital Region Corps.
Grard said the building will resemble other recently built Jehovah’s Witness halls in Waterville and Albion.
He said the buildings are designed to be attractive and “neighborhood-friendly.” Application materials submitted for the proposal indicate it was designed to maximize the privacy of its neighbors, of which there are several in the vicinity.
Grard said if city approves the permit, site work would begin later this week and construction would begin in early August. He said once construction starts, it could take less than a month.
It will be built by the congregation.
“We’re going to have dozens of helpers, all volunteer laborers, and people licensed in their trades,” Grard said. “There will be a concentrated effort to get it done in a minimal amount of time. So for a couple of weeks neighbors will see some commotion, but it’ll settle down after that.”
The project is estimated to be a $600,000 project in the city permit application.
The only area of concern cited by city staff in the proposal review was an 18-foot-wide access road into the property, which Lionel Cayer, city engineer, noted is required to be at lest 24 feet wide under city rules, unless a waiver is granted by planners. He said a design with a 24-foot-wide road for the first 30 feet off Cross Hill Road, followed by a taper to 18 feet for the reminder of the road into the hall’s parking lot, would be adequate.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, according to the organization’s official website, refer to their places of worship as Kingdom Halls because, in the Bible, the Greek terms sometimes translated as “church” refers to a group of worshippers, not the building where they meet.
The lot is currently undeveloped.
The Planning Board meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday for a public hearing on the project, which would be in the Rural Residential District.
Planners are also scheduled to:
â¢ consider a request from Richard Brochu to extend the deadline to meet the conditions of approval for his subdivision on Gerabro Acre Road;
â¢ hold a public hearing and consider the application of Alvin Lothridge for a waiver from the requirement to construct a sidewalk along Pennmaric Road, needed under city rules before the city, without such a waiver, would accept the road as a public street and;
â¢ hold a public hearing on a request from Rep. Barry Hobbins, D-Saco, to rezone 112 Sewall St. from low density residential to institutional/business/professional district contract zone, to use the building as both offices for legal and consulting services, and for an apartment.
Keith Edwards – 621-5647 | [email protected] | Twitter: @kedwardskj