WATERVILLE — The Planning Board on Monday voted 6-0 to recommend the City Council rezone church property on Eustis Parkway so that the Children’s Discovery Museum can move there from Augusta.

About 20 people turned out for the meeting, held in the Chace Community Forum at the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons downtown.

The Discovery Museum wants to move to the First Congregational United Church of Christ building at 7 Eustis Parkway and is requesting the property be rezoned from Residential-B to Contract Zoned District/Commercial-A to allow that to happen, the museum’s executive director, Amarinda Keys, told the board.

Mike Muir, the church’s moderator and lay leader, said the church is working with the museum on the rezoning request.

“As a church, we’re in the process of identifying another location and we’re working with the Discovery Museum on a lease-purchase agreement,” Muir said.

The council will consider the Planning Board’s recommendation to rezone and would make the final decision. The council is the only entity with authority to make zone changes.

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

The City Council on Nov. 27 voted 5-0 to refer to the Planning Board for a public hearing and recommendation the museum’s request to rezone the church property.

The museum, now located at 171 Capitol St. in Augusta, wants to lease space in the church, with plans eventually to buy it, according to Keys.

Museum officials announced in December 2017 that the museum planned to move to the former American Legion Hall on College Avenue in Waterville, tripling the amount of space it has in Augusta. The Legion hall is about 10,000 square feet in size.

April Cummings, co-owner of Half Pints Day Care, located within the First Congregational Church in Waterville, walks through the church nave on Nov. 19. The Children’s Discovery Museum is hoping to lease the church with the intention of purchasing it to put the museum there.

But Keys said recently that the Legion hall “didn’t feel like a good fit for what we wanted” and that ownership is important to the museum, which has been in existence 26 years.

Church Pastor Mark Wilson said recently the church hopes to lease space to the museum for a year or two and then sell the entire building to the museum. He said 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. He said church members love the building but realize that if the church stays there it would be in an unsustainable situation

Keys has said she is not sure when the museum would move to the church from its current, 4,000-square-foot home in Augusta. The museum has a lot of work to do and a lot of money to raise, she said.

The Eustis Parkway church was built in 1966, but before that, it was on Temple Street for 160 years, behind where the 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. 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, he said.

Board member Bruce White made a motion to recommend the rezoning to the council and member Chris Rancourt seconded his motion.

Planning Board member Scott Fortin was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


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