Old Ship Moves Forward With Sale Of Parish House Despite Concerns And Constraints
By Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff; November 17, 2020
Old Ship Parish House 107 Main Street [Hingham Current file photo / Kristen Arute]
"Since the Parish vote taken on October 13th, the Board of Trustees has taken steps to begin the process of negotiating the Purchase & Sale Agreement with Atlantic Development," said Janet Asnes, President of the Old Ship Church Board of Trustees in an email to church parishioners. "The Board appointed a Parish House Project Management Team of 5 Old Ship members, including two members of the Board, who have wide experience in contracts, construction, communication, and the earlier planning process for a new Parish House."
In addition to Hingham residents Brian McPhillips and Ron Pollara, members of the Project Management Team include Diane Morrison and Nina Wellford. Also on the Team is Tom Willson who was appointed to the Historical Commission in 2009 by fellow Old Ship parishioner and then-Selectman Laura Burns. In the past, Willson has gone before the Community Preservation Committee as a proponent of both the Old Ship Memorial Bell Tower renovation and Old Ship steeple restoration.
For the past two weeks, the Parish House committee and the church's legal counsel have been negotiating the terms of a purchase and sale agreement that was submitted by Hingham-based Atlantic Development for the purchase of the Parish House at 107 Main Street. This was being done in preparation for a Special Parish Meeting that will be held tonight, Tuesday, November 17th at 6:30 PM. It is rumored that Atlantic would build luxury condominiums and the back of the property would be used by the Affordable Housing Trust (AHT) for the expansion of the Lincoln School Apartments.
According to information disseminated to parishioners, the AHT has had the property appraised and has "banked" the necessary funds and would only need approval from the Board of Selectmen to move forward. The AHT has also requested $700K from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC), which led to contentious debate at a recent meeting. Other boards and committees have applied for funds. Awarding the bulk of it to AHT would mean that many, if not all, of those other projects would be left out.
"The potential sale of a small portion of the land to the AHT is being worked out on a parallel track," Asnes continued. "The Team will be ready to present details for a final vote of the Parish: to give the Board permission to sign the agreement with Atlantic Development."
Questions have arisen as to how the church could be negotiating with one buyer interested in high-density development let alone two given the constraints on the property. The Parish House is located in two historic districts and is zoned for single family use. One way would be for Atlantic Development to create a public-private partnership with the Town of Hingham and pursue development under the 40B law. That law allows developers to bypass certain local controls as long as at least 25% of the units meet the criteria of being "affordable" units.
Another would be to create a zoning overlay district that would establish loosened restrictions on several properties in the area. The Parish House property could also be rezoned through an amendment. While "spot zoning," or an overlay district for just one property, is illegal, a zoning amendment for a single parcel is not.
The future of the Parish House property remains to be seen. No boards or committees, including the Historical Commission and the Historical Districts Commission, have made formal comments. As Planning Board member and Old Ship parishioner Judy Sneath pointed out on social media, "IF a deal is struck and an application submitted to the Town permitting boards, THEN you has (sic) residents have the right to weigh in."
In addition to the Special Parish Meeting being held tonight, the AHT is meeting with the Selectmen in Executive Session to discuss the purchase of the Parish House property. CPC meets tomorrow night to listen to proponents present their projects. The process to review zoning ordinances for next spring's Town Meeting will begin next month. Any proposals would go in front of the Planning Board first before making their way to the Board of Selectmen and the Advisory Committee.
Tim White, Chairman
Name, Appointed By
Kevin M. Burke, Historical Commission Representative
Vicki Donlan, Recreation Commission Representative
William Harrington, Selectmen
Larry Lindner, Selectmen
Thomas Roby, Conservation Commission Representative
Kirsten Moore, Town Moderator
Judy Sneath, Planning Board Representative
Megan Buhr, Housing Authority
Charles Byrne, Town Moderator
Hans von der Luft
Mary Anne Donaldson