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Claremont OKs Church Plans

Claremont — The Planning Board has approved a site plan for a 19,000-square-foot church proposed for the site of the former Ames Department store on Maple Avenue.

The board’s 5-0 approval came with little discussion and a few standard conditions as well as a requirement to get a lighting plan approved before construction begins. The board emphasized that lighting must be “downcast” so as not to disturb abutting properties.

The applicant is Grace River Church, formerly First Baptist Church, which currently occupies the church at the intersection of Central and Main streets.

The approval is actually an update to a site plan approved in 2008 for a 30,000-square-foot church that Grace River proposed about a year after it bought the property. Those plans were never implemented.

Besides a smaller building, another notable change in the plans from 2008 is the building’s location. Previously it was going to be built on essentially the same footprint as the Ames building, but it would be about 100 feet from the road. The property is in a business district but the church obtained a variance for the 2008 approval. City interim planner Mike McCory told the board that the variance “endures;” however he pointed out that under a new state law that took effect this year, such variances would expire after two years.

The Rev. David Crosby of Grace River Church said previously that the church plans to have some site work completed this fall and construction could begin as early as the spring.

The building will have a pitched roof with the peak rising to just under 40 feet. The sanctuary would seat close to 400 and the floor plan also includes a balcony, meeting and classroom space, a kitchen and a café room for refreshments.

After Ames closed, a water bottling company occupied the site for a few years. The department store building was torn down after the Baptist Church bought the property.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.