WATERVILLE — The City Council on Tuesday voted 5-0 to refer to the Planning Board for a public hearing and recommendation a request by the Children’s Discovery Museum to rezone church property on Eustis Parkway so the museum can move there.

The museum, now located at 171 Capitol St. in Augusta, wants to lease space in the First Congregational United Church of Christ at 7 Eustis Parkway, with plans to eventually buy the church property, according to Amarinda Keys, the museum’s executive director.

About 40 people turned out for Tuesday’s council meeting, held in the Chace Community Forum at the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons downtown.

With little discussion, councilors approved the museum request, with Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, making a motion to approve and Councilor Winifred Tate, D-Ward 6, seconding his motion. Councilor Nathaniel White, D-Ward 2, was absent from the meeting. Others approving the request were Council Chairman Steve Soule, D-Ward 1, and councilors Sydney Mahew, R-Ward 4, and Jackie Dupont, D-Ward 7.

Waterville Board of Education member Julian Payne asked if the church building will be taxable when the museum moves in. Churches are nonprofit and therefore, not taxable.

“The assessor will be the final determiner of that,” City Manager Michael Roy said.


The Planning Board will make a recommendation to the council concerning rezoning and the council will make the final decision.

The museum, whose website says its interactive exhibits and hands-on programs ignite curiosity and celebrate learning through play, had planned to lease the American Legion hall on College Avenue, but earlier this year backed off that idea.

The church’s pastor, Mark Wilson, said recently that the church hopes to lease space to the museum for a year or two and then sell the entire building to the museum. Wilson attended Tuesday’s meeting and was available for questions.

He said last week that the 14,000-square-foot church, which has 125 members, would look for another space if the lease and ultimate purchase of the church is feasible.

“We love the spot, but we also realize that the church, if we continue to be in that building, would find ourselves in an unsustainable situation,” Wilson said. “What I’m saying is that instead of an unsustainable church building, we’re building a sustainable church.”

Councilors on Tuesday voted to refer to the Planning Board a request to rezone the church property from Residential-B to Contract Zoned District/Commercial-A to allow for the museum to operate there.


The proposed condition of the contract zone would be that the only permitted uses of the property would be a children’s museum, day care center and the existing church.

Keys said last week she is not sure when the museum would move to the church from its current, 4,000-square-foot home on Capitol Street in Augusta. It has been in that spot about four years, and the museum has been in existence 26 years. The museum has a lot of work to do and a lot of money to raise, she said.

Museum officials announced in December last year that the museum planned to move to the former American Legion hall, tripling the amount of space it has in Augusta. The legion hall is about 10,000 square feet in size.

But Keys said last week that the museum was backing away from the American Legion hall plan.

“It didn’t feel like a good fit for what we wanted,” Keys said. “Ownership is important to us.”

The church on Eustis Parkway was built in 1966, but before that, it was on Temple Street for 160 years, behind where the current Colby College residential complex is now, according to Wilson. He said some current church members also attended the Temple Street church, which was demolished as part of urban renewal efforts many years ago. He said church officials plan to keep the church, which has been in the city 190 years, in Waterville, and they hope to find a spot closer to the heart of the city.


The council also voted 5-0 to rezone 315 Main St. from Commercial-B and Residential-B to Commercial-A at the request of owner Frederick Fisher so as to eliminate building setback requirements as that could be a potential impediment to redevelopment in the future.

Councilors voted 5-0 to rezone 257 and 259 Main St. and 11 Hillside Avenue from Residential-C to Commercial-A to reflect the actual current use of the properties and make them salable for commercial use in the future. The change was requested by Philip Roy and John Goodine.

Amy Calder — 861-9247


Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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