Variances requested for new plan for Wilton church

Photo by JESSIE SALISBURY A plan is in the works for Sacred Heart Church in Wilton.

WILTON – If all goes as planned, the former Sacred Heart Church on Maple Street will become five apartments, an adult educational center and a store/gallery.

On Tuesday, June 13, John Sprague and Christina Rubio-Sprague, of Willreign Properties, presented a plan for the two buildings on the site to the Zoning Board of Adjustment. They are requesting variances to allow the proposed uses in a residential area. Two neighbors attended the hearing.

“We are an investment company,” Rubio-Sprague said. “We have purchased the property to preserve its historic aspects.”

The rectory would be made into two apartments, and three units would be built in the church lower level, preserving the architecture. The rest of the building would be made into an educational facility for developmentally disabled adults with an outlet for the sale of their artwork.

“There will be no changes to the outside of the structure,” Rubio-Sprague said. “It would be sad to do away with that.”

There would be about 10 adult students/clients, “and we have talked with teachers interested,”

Rubio-Sprague said.

The couple did not present a plan or drawings, and board members said they needed one.

Of particular concern to the board was parking, both for the residential units, which require two spaces per unit, and for other activities on the site.

An architectural drawing of the interior was suggested, although that isn’t a requirement for the requested variances. The plan should also include signage and exterior lighting.

“Those will be according to the town’s regulations,” Rubio-Sprague said.

The board also asked for information concerning the business, hours of operation, number of clients and expected traffic. The retail store, to which Rubio-Sprague referred as an “gallery,” would offer items made by clients “to help them earn a living,” she said.

Asked if the Catholic Diocese, the original owners, had placed restrictions on the property, Rubio-Sprague said yes.

“There are a lot of things we can’t do,” she said, such as activities that would be against the beliefs of the Catholic Church.

She said the rectory needed a lot of repairs, and they had started to make them.

Neighbor Susan Childress asked them “to think about the impact on the neighborhood.”

Because variances go with the property, Chairman Neil Faiman said, “We need to clearly define what we are approving.”

The board scheduled a site visit for 9 a.m. Saturday, July 8, and continued the hearing to its next meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 11.

After the hearing, asked about the church’s Tracker organ, Rubio-Sprague said it would have to be moved because of damage to the ceiling and the wall behind it caused by a roof leak.

“The plaster is falling,” she said, adding, “I love that organ,” and she would “love to find a new home for it.”