A preliminary site plan sketch from A.E. Hodsdon Consulting Engineers for a proposed parking lot behind First Church of Waterville, at the corner of Park Street and Park Place. A.E. Hodsdon Consulting Engineers

WATERVILLE — The City Council is scheduled Tuesday to consider referring to the Planning Board a controversial request for the city to rezone 3, 5 and 7 Park St. so a church can expand its parking lot and build a fully accessible ramp at the rear of the building.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the City Hall Annex at 46 Front St.

The council postponed voting on the referral request on Dec. 5 until First Church of Waterville and its neighbors on Park Place, which runs perpendicular to Park Street, could meet to discuss the matter and reach a compromise.

Last Monday, both sides met with city officials and expressed what each side wants to see as part of a compromise. The church wants to raze two former apartment buildings on its property to more than double its 23-space parking lot, to 57 spaces.

The apartment buildings include a duplex at 3 Park St. that is within 10 feet of the back wall of the church, a former funeral home at 5 Park St. that had three apartments, and the parking lot at 7 Park St.

The church bought the parking lot and apartment buildings, now vacant, last fall.


Jeff Allen, right, an engineer with A.E. Hodsdon Consulting Engineers, discusses a parking lot plan for the First Church of Waterville during a meeting Monday night of church and city officials and church neighbors. Waterville City Manager Bryan Kaenrath is seated at left. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel file

Neighbors said they don’t want traffic entering or exiting Park Place from an expanded parking lot and they suggested the front half of the building at 5 Park St. be kept standing to help protect the historic and residential character of the neighborhood.

They oppose tearing down housing when the city is in a housing crisis, but seemed willing to support the idea of moving the duplex at 3 Park St. to another location.

City officials said after Monday’s meeting that it would draw up documents for the Planning Board to consider when making a recommendation on rezoning that would include what each side wants. That board may hold a public hearing and make a recommendation, but the council has final authority on rezoning.

The church’s senior minister, Stephen Meidahl, said that when he began three years ago as minister at the church, the congregation consisted of eight parishioners and now there are 200 on a typical Sunday.

While the church has a front entrance that is accessible to those with disabilities, officials want to build a ramp at the rear for those who are physically challenged so they do not have to traverse long distances to get inside, according to Meidahl. More parking is also needed, he said.

The properties at 3, 5 and 7 Park St. are zoned as Contract Zoned District/Commercial-A and the church is requesting they be rezoned to Residential-D because the contract zone restricts use of the property.

Currently it says 5 Park St. shall be used only as a beauty salon and spa, professional offices or residences, 3 Park St. shall continue to be used as two residential apartments and 7 Park St. shall continue to be used as a parking lot only.

The church previously was called First Baptist Church and the number of parishioners declined over recent years as members aged and many passed away.

The name of the church was changed, and Meidahl and the Rev. Bill Cripe, formerly of the Faith Evangelical Free Church, now called Faith Church on Kennedy Memorial Drive, deliver sermons at First Baptist Church.

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