Plan to convert church moves forward

A GROUP OF FORMER PARISHIONERS are continuing to pursue plans to convert St. Mary’s Church in Little Kohler to a historical and community center. Press file photo
Ozaukee Press Staff

An effort to make St. Mary’s Church in Little Kohler a private community center inched forward last week when the Town of Fredonia Plan Commission recommended that the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals rule whether to grant variances for property setbacks that are narrower than normally allowed.

The group of former parishioners hope to buy the church, subdivide it from the cemetery behind it and operate it as an historical and community center.

The cemetery has its own perpetual maintenance fund and would remain part of the Milwaukee Archdiocese. The church is part of Divine Savior Parish. 

The property division would require approval from the archdiocese before the town could approve the request.

A variance is needed because the north side of the church is only 16 feet from the cemetery, far less than the 25 feet required under zoning. In addition, the former rectory, which is empty, and an out building also violate setback rules.

The church and cemetery together are about two acres. The church, rectory, its side yards and a parking lot take up about half that.

Chris Janik, a Plan Commission member who is also part of the group seeking to buy the church, presented a survey map to commission members. But before they can act, the appeals board must grant the variance when it meets next month, Town Chairman Rich Mueller said.

If the variance is granted, Janik said he will return with the survey map. If that is approved, members of the group will negotiate with the archdiocese on buying the property.

If the group is successful in buying the church, it could not be used for any Catholic rites such as Masses, baptisms, funerals or weddings, unless they were officiated by someone other than a Catholic priest.

The only Mass celebrated at the church currently is on Memorial Day at the end of May.

An easement would run through the property providing access to the cemetery, where burials could still be held.



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