2017-04-12 / Front Page

Church asks for lease with city

By LIZ GOTTHELF
Staff Writer

SACO — Now that Saco officials have determined the city owns the property the Unitarian Universalist Church of Saco and Biddeford sits on, the church is asking for a lease be drawn up to create a more formal agreement on an existing arrangement.

In 1825, city officials invited church leaders to build a place of worship on city land. In 1827, the meeting house was completed on the southern end of Pepperell Park. In 1867, the church received permission to build a parish hall next to the church, and a connector was built between the two buildings in the 1970s.

The question of who owns the land the church sits on has long been unanswered.

Church officials, when considering a potential parking lot project for the future, wanted to determine once and for all who owned the property and how much land the church could use.

The Saco City Council discussed the matter with church officials at a January workshop.

Since then, City Councilor and local attorney Eric Cote has reviewed records at the York County Registry of Deeds, the church, City Hall and the Dyer Library. He has determined the property is owned by the city.

According to records, the city last granted the church a lease in 1866, however, Cote said, the boundaries of the property are unclear.

Cote said at a City Council workshop Monday that the church will pay to have the land surveyed to determine the boundaries of the property, but before moving forward wanted to make sure the city would be amenable to granting the church a formal lease. Under the terms of the proposed lease, the land would go back to the city if the church was to cease operation.

Though no vote was taken, the council was in general agreement that creating a lease agreement for the church would be the best option. 

“It’s just basically to formalize what’s been done since 1827 and define some boundaries,” said Mayor Ron Michaud.

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or egotthelf@journaltribune.com.

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