VASSALBORO — A dispute between the town and the owner of an historic, dilapidated church recently concluded when a demolition crew acting on a town order razed the building.

Town leaders say their concern was the former Methodist church at 14 Priest Hill Road had become dangerous and was a hazard to nearby property owners.

The building was demolished July 13, bringing an end to the monthslong dispute between the town and property owner Chad Caron, who had wanted to renovate the building. The Vassalboro Historical Society says the church had dated to 1865.

Caron said he purchased the land in 2020 with the intention of renovating the structure to make it a three-unit property, with him occupying the primary residence and another unit being reserved for “anyone who was down on their luck.”

But in January the town notified Caron that he had 30 days to make improvements to the building or it would be demolished and he would have to pay the demolition costs.

People watch July 13 as the steeple and bell tower that were part of an old Methodist church on Priest Hill Road in Vassalboro are prepared for demolition. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“(The town) tore my structure down in a streamlined time frame that prevented me from acquiring the legal representation that I would need to prevent it from happening,” Caron said.


A friend of Caron’s, Joel Williams, said Caron would allow people who were destitute to stay on the property.

“This was a place that helped people,” Williams said. “It could have made a great narcotics anonymous building.”

But the Vassalboro code enforcement officer, Ryan Page, said the property became more and more problematic over time.

“The urgency (to tear down the church) was the height of the building’s structure and the location of the buildings around it,” Page said.

He explained that for the town to determine a building is dangerous, one of five conditions must be met: the structure must be deemed unsafe and unstable, unsanitary, unsuitable for occupancy, as a fire hazard, or a health or safety hazard.

Page said the church building was unsanitary, had no plumbing, had no running water and an engineer’s report determined it was structurally unsafe.


Vassalboro fire Chief Walker Thompson said “the steeple was leaning heavily toward the road” and the building had the potential to damage other properties, including a nearby doctor’s office.

“Throughout the past couple of years, the building’s condition certainly got worse versus better,” Thompson said. “The foundation of the property just wasn’t safe.”

Page said he wasn’t sure what the demolition cost because the town had not yet received the bill from the contractor, but he explained that a lien will be placed on the property to ensure Caron covers that cost.

Selectmen actually ordered the building’s demolition in January. The order included a provision that an extension could be granted if Caron was taking steps to make the property safer, but Page said he didn’t authorize an extension because he didn’t see any improvement.

But Caron disputes that.

“I shored up the major structural concerns,” he said. “We went up into the tower because there was a slight lean to it, and we wanted to see why that was happening. The front yard had been completely cleaned up and the back yard has been organized to store lumber in.”

Caron said he received paperwork from the town June 23 saying a contractor was going to demolish the building and remove all debris from the property.

“At the end of the day, the reason why the church came down had nothing to do with it being an unsafe building,” Caron asserted, saying, “It was about how it had come to represent the town’s fears” as a place where “riff-raff” would gather to abuse drugs.

Caron said he did everything he could to keep such people off the property.

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