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Opposing views on church building plan

A majority of City Council members said Tuesday that they couldn’t see how St. Mary’s Episcopal Church’s revised project sufficiently improved a neighbor’s ocean view.

The project includes demolition of the Guild Hall to make way for the construction of new meeting facilities and classrooms. Church officials appeared flummoxed by the council’s rejection of the revision, which was made in order to meet a condition of approval required by the council in December — that a neighbor’s ocean view must be increased.

“We wouldn’t have come before you if we hadn’t thought it was an improvement,” the Rev. Elizabeth Rechter said. “It’s very frustrating wanting to do a good thing and never knowing what that is. Maybe you [council] don’t know.”

Councilwoman Elizabeth Schneider cast the lone vote in favor of the revision, which she said met her intention when she crafted the motion in December for condition 34 which referred to Ronald Kaufman’s view.

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The condition read: “The outreach facility plans shall be redesigned to increase the blue water view of Ronald Kaufman and be approved by the council after a noticed hearing.”

“We took to heart your instruction to do better by him,” said church spokesman Carter Mudge.

Project architect Glen Gellately said he had “desperately” tried to address Kaufman’s concerns and felt he had achieved the goal set by the council. He provided photographs taken from various spots on Kaufman’s property, including the roof of the house, and a model showing the original design and the revisions.

“You are feeling uncomfortable,” Mayor Toni Iseman told Rechter. “And I can certainly say that I feel uncomfortable. It is hard for me when the architect stands on a roof and expects me to accept that view to be what the home’s view will be.”

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Iseman, who voted with council members Jane Egly and Kelly Boyd against the revision, volunteered to meet with church officials and the project architect, if they would accept her.

“I think we need you to be in on this,” Rechter said.

The council voted unanimously to appoint Iseman and Boyd as a subcommittee to work with the church officials.

Iseman said the first thing that popped into her mind was to create a courtyard or atrium where a view-impeding wall is now planned.

“Then it’s a piece of cake,” she said.

Rechter responded, “Nothing is a piece of cake.”

Egly endorsed Iseman’s suggestion.

“I have never seen anything [project] less accommodating, although I am sure it was not intentional,” Egly said.

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Egly’s view of the revision was the harshest voiced by council members.

“When I first objected to this project [in December] I said it is too big, too massive and it brings too much traffic to a troubled area,” Egly said. “I feel the same way now, only more so.

“That’s the bigger issue.”

The lesser issue, Egly said, is balancing the church needs against Kaufman’s view.

“This [proposal] is completely out of balance and it’s not very nice looking,” Egly said.

Resident Marc Woodward said cutting down a few trees, which church officials claimed would improve Kaufman’s view, didn’t cut it.

“That gives him a view of Second Street, Mermaid [Street] and traffic,” Woodward said. “Whoop de whoop!”

Rechter said the revision provides more view than the previous proposal.

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“We did absolutely as much as we could possibly do,” Rechter said.

The hour-long discussion concluded at 12: 20 a.m.

The council’s rejection of the revision does not affect the approval of the entire project, on which Councilwoman Cheryl Kinsman is banned by state law from voting on because she owns nearby property.

“It’s back to the drawing board with this condition,” Egly said.


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