WATERVILLE — The Planning Board on Monday will consider whether to recommend to the City Council that it rezone the former Boys & Girls Club on Main Place to allow a church to lease space inside the building.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the Chace Community Forum at the Bill & Joan Alfond Main Street Commons at 150 Main St.

The board voted 5-1 on Dec. 2 to postpone making a recommendation to allow members to get input from City Solicitor William A. Lee III.

Uria Pelletier and the First Congregational United Church of Christ are seeking a zoning change so the church may occupy a section of the former Boys & Girls Club building that Pelletier and his wife, Angela, bought in 2018.

The First Congregational United Church of Christ plans to sell its building at 7 Eustis Parkway to the Children’s Discovery Museum, of Augusta, and has been struggling to find a suitable space to move the church, whose membership has declined in number over the years.

Church members want to lease space in the former Boys & Girls Club at 6 Main Place, which is vacant and owned by Uria Pelletier. He and the church are seeking a revision to the city’s zoning ordinance to allow churches in commercial zones.

The Planning Board does not have authority to make zoning changes — only the City Council has that power — but the panel may make a recommendation to the council.


Lee said after the Dec. 2 Planning Board meeting that he believes the commercial zone where the Main Place building is located should be changed to allow religious institutions, per federal law.

A change to the Commercial-A zone needs to be changed to add religious uses, he said. If a municipality has zoning and a particular zone allows fraternal organizations and public assemblies — uses analogous to churches — the churches must also be allowed in that zone, as required by federal law, according to Lee.

Planning Board member Bruce White made a motion Dec. 2 to recommend to the council the Main Place property be rezoned to allow churches in the commercial zone, but members Chris Rancourt and Tom Nale said they wanted Lee to weigh in on whether rezoning is the appropriate decision for the city.

Lee said later he spoke with Nale and told him if the zone allows similar types of uses, then religious uses also must be allowed and to restrict religious uses requires a very substantial, compelling governmental interest.

White withdrew his motion to make a recommendation to the council at members’ urging, and Rancourt made a motion to postpone voting until Dec. 16. Member Cathy Weeks seconded his motion. White was the lone dissenter in the vote.

Pelletier said about 4,000 square feet of the south side of the building, formerly the office area for the Boys & Girls Club, would be renovated for the church, and another 1,000 square feet would be developed into a common area.


He said he also wants to train people in the building to work for his company.

In other matters Monday night, the board is expected to consider a request from Alfond Youth Center at 126 North St. to revise a previously approved plan so as to reconfigure vehicle and pedestrian access to the building.

Douglas Frame of Elite Properties LLC is expected to request that 83 Pleasant St. be rezoned from Residential-D to Contract Zoned District-Commercial-A so he may add a second, two-unit residential building there. The board will consider whether to recommend a zone change to the council. Frame is expected to request informal pre-application review for a plan to construct two residential units.

Also on Monday, the board is expected to discuss the city’s consideration to revise articles of the zoning ordinance to allow solar farms in the Rural Residential Zone.

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