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Iconic Waverley Square Church Under Sale Agreement

First Congregation of Waverley could be future home of housing, sale spurs possible preservation incentives on future development of religious buildings, schools and town structures.

The All Peoples United Church on Trapelo Road, well-known as the First Congregational Church of Waverly which has stood as a communal beacon to the residents of Waverley Square for 140 years, is reportedly under a purchase-and-sale agreement with a yet-to-be named developer who is reportedly preparing to build housing on the site of the iconic religious structure.

The news of a pending P&S was announced by Sami Baghdady, the chairman of the Planning Committee at its scheduled meeting held on Thursday, Sept. 27 at the Beech Street Center.

Baghdady said he understood that the building would be raised and new residential construction will be placed on the site.

"What a shame at the loss of a landmark building," said Baghdady, a real estate attorney with an office in Arlington, of the church built in 1870, the first community building in what was then the Village of Waverley.

The church was placed on sale in July for $1.5 million by ERA Andrew Realty of Medford (now Re/Max Andrew Realty) but did not find a bidder and the sale was reopen to property developers in mid-August.

It is not known the amount the church, which is reportedly in need of significant renovation, is under agreement. The church is owned by the congregation as a non-profit.

Under the town's zoning bylaw, the church's 34,000 square-foot lot will allow "as of right" the development of four house parcels which will allow two units on each lot, said Jeffrey Wheeler, the town's planning coordinator.

But due to town space requirements from front and back yards, it is more likely that a developer would need to reduce their plans to three structures of two units.

Church sale spurs new "incentive" bylaw

Soon after hearing the news, Baghdady requested an inventory of all religious, town and school buildings as a first step in what Baghdady hopes will be a new town bylaw that will create "incentives" to spur future developers to spare historical and structural features of buildings – front-facing facades, for instance – listed by the town in return for greater buildings opportunities at the sites, such as allowing for greater density inside a historic building.

Michael Battista, the board's vice chairman, said the bylaw should not hamper development as the buildings will be added to the town's property tax rolls.

The list, which currently has approximately 40 structures, will be used in a similar manner as the Belmont Historic District Commission's current tabulation of 200 residential structures that would be protected under a one-year demolition delay bylaw the commission will be presenting to Town Meeting for adoption in either a special fall or the regular Town Meeting in May 2013.

Andy Rojas, the Board of Selectmen's representative to the Planning Board, said that the bylaw – which he and the other Planning Board members support crafting – isn't about historical preservation but to help development while maintaining a part of the town's historic heritage.

Yet new Planning Board member Liz Allison said that a structure's age should not be a "trigger" in placing buildings on the list.

Bet January 11, 2013 at 01:00 PM
The beauty and history of the FIrst Congregational Church will be gone soon. Blocks of houses will be seen in the near future to take its place. The steeple of this 140 year old church will only be seen in photographs. The bell that once rung will no longer be heard. The sale and future of this wonderful building has been quietly kept for some time. The church has been an icon in Belmont that has made many who live in the Waverly area proud to live in this town. It is a shame that some are more concerned about money than they are about destroying the beauty that lies in front of them.
b lowengard January 19, 2013 at 02:40 PM
This is a shame. The town should NOT approve destruction of this iconic centerpiece of Waverley, when they replace structures like this- the result is cold and generic. Churches, and oldbuildings are part of a towns character. Destroying this church is destroying a lot of what made Belmont interesting and not generic. The town lets one developer build a huge ugly new church on one side of town, and will let another developer tear down a smaller older church for - i don't know....profit? his relatives? A town without pride.

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