GORHAM — The Zoning Board of Adjustment voted unanimous approval on both the variance and special exception requested by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Manchester — Holy Family Parish — that would allow a new seven-classroom parish school — Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) Academy — to be opened at 5 Church St.
The ZBA held a public hearing on Tuesday evening, July 2.
Jacob Therriault of Gorham, a surveyor at HEB in Conway who volunteered his time and expertise to work with architect Tim Sappington of Randolph, presented the drawings and rationale behind the variance request to build an 8-by-40-foot addition to allow for an emergency egress that does not meet setback requirements for a Residential A zone.
The Rev. Kyle Stanton of Good Shephard & Holy Family Parishes in Berlin and Gorham was on hand to answer questions about the new school, which anticipates a September opening day with 58 students, pre-kindergarten to grade 8.
Seminarian Daniel Simard, who has been assigned to a North Country summer of shadowing Father Kyle, was also on hand.
The Bishop and Holy Family Parish also requested a special exception to allow the operation of a religious school in a Residential A zone.
Earlier, the planning board oversaw what appears to be a long overdue merger of two lots, explained recording secretary Michelle Lutz.
The classroom building near the Holy Family Church was erected in 1988 when zoning was new in town and these lots were designated “general use.”
It has been used since that time for Holy Family’s religious classes as well as for Boy Scout activities and classes.
“This has been a consistent use but not a full-time use,” chairman Wayne Flynn explained. Salve Regina anticipates being open five days a week, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Carpooling is expected to be the norm with the possibility of adding a bus or van to transport students at some time in the future.
The town’s technical committee, made up of the department heads of public works, police and fire, foresaw no issues.
No on-site kitchen will serve the school, but if that should change and the kitchen inside the Holy Family Church be utilized, it would have to be brought up to today’s life safety code.
Father Kyle read aloud a letter from abutters Steve and Erica Grone at 133 Main St. They wrote that they have no objection to the existing building being used as a full-time religious school.
No one was on hand to speak either for or against the proposed school or the two requests.
The ZBA prepared very similar findings of facts that applied to both members noted that a full egress was required by today’s life safety code if all the available classrooms were to be fully functional, that property values in the immediate area would not be adversely affected and that access to other buildings would not be impeded. They also wrote that granting these requests “would not be contrary to the spirit of the ordinance.”
Both motions of approval passed unanimously, with ZBA members Flynn, Thomas Dyar, Lenny Knowles and Norman Malloy all voting “yes.”
Flynn explained that any dissatisfied abutters could appeal the ZBA’s decisions for up to 30 days and seek a rehearing in writing.
Work can begin on the building in line with the ZBA’s decisions but would be subject to removal if the case should lose in Superior Court
In other action, the board voted unanimously for its 2019 officers: Flynn, chairman; Dyar, vice chairman; and Lutz as recording secretary. The ZBA has two vacancies.