Divine Savior seeks land division to facilitate sale, but officials say they intend to keep church, cemetery
Divine Savior Parish — a merger of Holy Rosary in Fredonia and St. Mary’s in Lake Church — wants to divide the 10 acres it owns in Lake Church into four parcels to allow the sale of the former parish rectory and perhaps other buildings.
Don Hamm, president of the parish council, told the Town of Belgium Plan Commission on May 15 that Joe Koeppen, who rents the rectory, would like to buy it within the next two years.
The parish wants to divide the property into separate lots for the rectory, parish center, church with north parking lot, and the school with the remainder of the land, Hamn said.
The parish center will have frontage on Lake Church Road, as does the rectory and church. The school is on Highway D.
Separate holding tanks were installed for each building this year, but the buildings share a common well, said Richard Uselding, a parish council member.
There are no plans to sell the church, he said, noting “it is a part of the culture of the community.”
The cemetery, which is included in the 10 acres, cannot be sold and should have enough grave sites for the next 50 years, Hamm said.
“What we’re mainly looking at is getting the parish center and rectory split off,” he said.
The Plan Commission recommended parish officials appear before the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals to find out if variances will be granted to allow them to proceed with their plan.
Eventually, a certified survey will be needed, but Zoning Administrator Charles Parks said the parish should find out what will be allowed before it spends the money.
“The intent would be to retain the historical nature of the area, and they will need variances for all of this,” Parks said. “I think the special nature of the property warrants that. I doubt if there is one setback that meets our zoning.”
Town Chairman Tom Winker said the Plan Commission should let the Appeals Board do its job first.
“This is a once in a lifetime deal because this is a unique property,” Winker said. “This will come back to us.”
The property, which is currently zoned parkland, must be rezoned if the uses are changed. However, the use of the property should be determined before any parcels are rezoned, advised Rick Kania of the Southeastern Regional Planning Commission who is working with the town to update its zoning code.
The church and school should be zoned for institutional use, he said, but the town does not have that zoning yet.
The parish has offered to sell the handicapped-accessible parish center, a former convent for nuns who taught in the school that is currently used for meetings and religious education classes, to the town for a Town Hall.
A Town Hall Committee, headed by Supr. Jim Blick, is exploring that along with other options, including renting the current Belgium Village Hall when it is vacated next year.
“If the town doesn’t use it (parish center) as a hall, we would probably sell it for a single-family home,” Hamm said.
Village officials last week approved a lease agreement for 5-1/2 years that calls for the town to pay a rent equal to its share of building expenses as determined annually when village and town officials approve the Belgium Fire Department budget. The agreement can be extended in five-year increments up to three times, according to the lease agreement.
The fire department currently uses 78% of the building and village offices are in 22%, which is how expenses are divided up in the current budget. The town currently pays 60% of the fire department’s budget and the village pays 40%.
If the town doesn’t rent the space, Village Trustee Jason Acevedo said, another tenant will be sought.
The village is building a new Village Hall in the New Luxembourg village square. Developers Mike and John Ansay have donated the lot and $600,000 to build the hall.