AUGUSTA — A proposal to alter zoning rules to help the new owner of the former St. Mark’s Church redevelop it into a community gathering space has brought to the surface concerns about illegal parking at the nearby Lithgow Public Library’s parking lot.

Adam Turner bought the former church building with the intention of redeveloping it into a community gathering space that would host artistic performances and events, meetings, presentations, lectures and other events.

City officials say Turner is not responsible for issues that already exist with Lithgow’s lone parking lot, off Oak Street between State and Pleasant streets.

The Augusta City Council is scheduled to consider a proposal Thursday intended to help Turner’s project by setting up a special set of zoning rules for the property.

The proposal, which would not require off-street, on-site parking for the church building, has prompted concerns from some — including the leader of the library — about the ongoing misuse of the library’s modest parking lot by people who are using the library.

“The library is very supportive of what Adam is trying to do over there — it’s a wonderful idea,” said Sarah Schultz-Nielsen, executive director of Lithgow Public Library.


Schultz-Nielsen said the library’s parking lot has become “the default overflow parking in that neighborhood,” with motorists parking there to go to the Capital Area Judicial Center a short distance away on State Street, the nearby Plummer Funeral Home, a multiuse building at 70 State St., the Maine Service Employees Association headquarters on State Street and other area buildings.

This often creates problems for library users, especially older users who need to park close to the building but are unable to find places to park, according to Schultz-Nielsen.

Turner said he plans to spread the word that those who attend events at the repurposed church should not park at the library parking lot.

He said he would encourage people to park in a city parking garage — down the hill off Dickman Street, just above the downtown area — and to walk to events at the church building.

He also said he would encourage event attendees who are able to walk greater distances to park at the garage, leaving the parking spaces on Pleasant Street for those who are not able to walk as well.

Turner said advertisements for events at the former church would also explain where attendees should and should not park.


Turner said he has provided off-street parking to tenants who rent apartments at the former St. Mark’s parish hall, which shares the same property.

Patrick Murphy, president of Plummer Funeral Home, said he shares others’ concerns about parking in the area. He said when the funeral home parking lot overflows, parked cars can overwhelm the neighborhood.

Murphy said it would be nice to have access to parking at the old YMCA site on State Street.

City Manager William Bridgeo said the city has contacted the owner of the old YMCA lot, but he was not interested in selling part of the site for a parking lot.

City councilors said it might be possible to address parking needs in the area through cooperation between the owners of businesses, churches and other entities with parking lots in the neighborhood.

They also said careful timing and scheduling, so parking lots that are not now used at night could provide parking for events in the area. Some councilors suggested the nearby parking lot for the Aveda Institute, a cosmetology school on Bridge Street.


Turner said he had spoken briefly with one of the owners of Aveda, who said they were willing to work something out for parking.

“It’s a responsibility for all of us to work together to solve the problem,” Mayor David Rollins said during a council discussion of the issue last week. “It’s in the front of our minds. We want it to work out and we want everybody to be able to find parking.”

Bridgeo said he felt it important to help Turner save the stone church building, which will likely require finding new ways to use it.

“I feel this St. Mark’s Church is one of the most iconic buildings in our city, and I have a lot of admiration for you to try to take it and preserve it,” Bridgeo said to Turner. “We ought to make damn sure we don’t allow that building to be demolished.”

Councilors are scheduled to hold a first reading — of two required readings for passage — of the proposal to create a contract zone for the St. Mark’s building at their 7 p.m. meeting Thursday.

Councilors are also scheduled to: Present a Mayor’s Recognition of Excellence Award to Kennebec Savings Bank, hear a presentation from Cony teacher Karina Escajeda on her participation in the Fulbright Fellowship Program, authorize Bridgeo to enter into a three-year contract agreement between the city and Teamsters Local 340 for general government employees, consider zoning changes on a section of Winthrop Street, and consider another proposed zoning change that would allow small distilleries, breweries and bakeries in a zone encompassing much of the commercial area near exit 109 on Interstate 95, including the Turnpike Mall and Augusta Crossing areas.

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