Ware-Butler Building Supply wants to use a former church rectory at 74 Pleasant St. for its business offices, a move that would require rezoning by city officials. Scott Monroe/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — City councilors are not ready to decide whether to rezone a former church rectory at 74 Pleasant St. so Ware-Butler Building Supply can put business offices in the property.

Instead, at the urging of City Solicitor William A. Lee III, the council voted 5-0 on Tuesday to send the matter back to the Planning Board, asking that the board explain its recommendation to the council about rezoning the property and issue councilors a report detailing the reasons for the recommendation.

Lee said the city’s zoning ordinance requires the Planning Board issue such a report when it makes a zoning change recommendation. He also said the Planning Board merely voted to recommend the change to the council, with no explanation.

Ware-Butler had previously requested the rezoning and the council sent the request to the Planning Board for a recommendation. The Planning Board may only recommend rezoning to the council, which has the final say.

The Planning Board voted 4-2 last week to recommend the council rezone the former Sacred Heart Church rectory from Residential-D to Contract Zoned District/Commercial-A. Conditions of approval stipulated that if the building ceases to be used for offices, the zone would automatically revert back to Residential-D, and that the existing driveway on Pleasant Street be restricted to emergency use only.

A Ware-Butler office building is seen Wednesday behind the former Sacred Heart Catholic Church off Pleasant Street in Waterville. The building supply company is seeking city approval to rezone a nearby building at 74 Pleasant St. that previously served as the church rectory so that Ware-Butler can put business offices there. Scott Monroe/Morning Sentinel

Councilor Claude Francke, D-Ward 6, said Tuesday he found a serious issue with the procedure for recommending contract zoning and the explanation for why it should be a contract zone. He said he also had questions about the way the Planning Board handled a memorandum forwarded to councilors. The rectory is located in his ward.


Ware-Butler now has offices in a nearby building directly behind the former Sacred Heart Church, in a spot previously used as offices for the Corpus Christi Catholic Parish.

Ware-Butler’s chief operating officer, Alan Orcutt, attended last week’s Planning Board meeting. After hearing concerns from board members and others about a proposal to turn what is essentially a house into offices when housing is badly needed in the city, Orcutt said Ware-Butler is open to ideas for uses of the church and rectory. At the Planning Board’s meeting Feb. 14, Orcutt said demolishing the church was a possibility.

The former Sacred Heart Church at 72 Pleasant St. in Waterville is shown in June 2021. Ware-Butler Building Supply is seeking to rezone land near the church, and company say demolishing the former church building is a possibility. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file

On Tuesday, he told councilors that Ware-Butler had been in contact with at least one developer interested in possibly turning the church and rectory into residential properties, with possibly 10 to 12 units at the church and three to four units at the rectory.

“Ware-Butler, my bosses, are definitely receptive to being patient for the next four to six months,” Orcutt said of possible plans for the buildings.

Ware-Butler officials intend to continue to pursue having offices at the former rectory, but remain receptive and patient, Orcutt said, adding they will explore ideas that come forward to find solutions.

Planning Board member Hilary Koch said she was speaking on her own behalf and not for other bard members in saying Ware-Butler owns the property and has the right to tear down the church. Koch agreed with Lee that the matter should go back to the Planning Board, which should issue a report giving reasons for its recommendation.


“We didn’t do that last week and we have to,” Koch said.

Rien Finch, a resident of the neighborhood, said the city should have a long-term zoning plan, and rezoning the rectory property amounts to spot zoning. Such spot zoning allows for continued commercial sprawl, he said.

“This isn’t fair to the residents,” Finch said.

Council Chairwoman Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4, and Councilors Francke, Thomas Klepach, D-Ward 3, Mike Morris, D-Ward 5, and Tom McCormick, an independent representing Ward 7, voted to send the issue back to the Planning Board. Councilors Brandon Gilley, D-Ward 1, and Flavia DeBrito, D-Ward 2, were absent Tuesday.

In other matters, the City Council took a second, final vote to approve a redistricting proposal that would change the population numbers in four city wards.

City Clerk Patti Dubois has said that following the 10-year census, if the population of any ward exceeds that of any other ward by more than 10%, redrawing of ward lines is required. Wards, 2, 3 and 4 lost population and Ward 6 gained, so population in Ward 6 will be moved to the other three wards.

Councilors also voted 5-0 on Tuesday to establish a community resilience committee that would explore opportunities for the city to develop programs and take actions to provide a resilient future in the face of climate change.

They also authorized acting City Manager Bill Post to apply to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business Development Grant Program for funding of up to $45,000 to help pay for a study of Waterville’s recreation assets.

McCormick asked acting police Chief Bill Bonney how Officer Mikayla Hodge, who was injured in an automobile crash Saturday, is doing. Bonney said Hodge was treated at a hospital and released. She had a minor concussion and suffered a cut to the head, and is expected to return to work this week.

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