BEDFORD — St. Elizabeth Seton Parish has grown from 400 to 3,000 families in its nearly 50 years in Bedford.
To keep up with the growing congregation, parish member Jerry Gagne and Pastor John Quinn went before the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment on Tuesday to ask for variances for additions to the activity center and the main entrance of the church at 190 Meetinghouse Road.
After little discussion, the ZBA approved the two applications.
The church requested a variance for expansion of an existing nonconforming use to build a 2,800-square-foot addition onto the activity center and a 1,200-square-foot addition to the church’s entrance. This involves the expansion of the parking lot into the required 50-foot buffer between an existing residence and the church.
The property is owned by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Manchester and has an assessed value of $3.3 million.
“The parish and the Bedford community have expanded considerably, and requires the church to expand its facility,” said Gagne in his presentation to the board.
The parish has an agreement with abutters Randy and Karen Shaw to acquire 2.1 acres to accommodate 15 additional parking spaces on the west side of the church, and to satisfy the 50-foot buffer requirement.
“The parish has multi-purpose rooms with a full, high school-size basketball court, 12 meeting rooms, a storage area and a kitchen. The expansion will provide additional meeting rooms and storage,” Gagne said.
The church was established in April 1964 as a mission for a church in Manchester, with Masses held at Bedford Town Hall. In August 1964, the Meetinghouse Road property was purchased, and the church was dedicated in May 1966 with 400 families and 437 children in the religious education program.“Now, we have 3,000 registered families, with 1,500 children in religious education program,” he said. “There are 700 Masses attended by parishioners each year.”The church boasts a congregation of about 10,000 people.The Mews of Bedford, the abutting 55 and older housing development, was once part of the original parcel, which was subdivided in 1989. The church’s office building and rectory were completed in 1989, and, in 2004, the activity center and courtyard were built.
Gagne said the two applications meet all variance requirements: they do not alter the character of Meetinghouse Road, do not threaten the community’s health or safety, do not diminish the property values of surrounding properties, nor alter the access path to the property.
“The Mews actually accesses the facility and uses the facility ... and the abutter is allowing the lot-line adjustment so I have no objections,” said Bill Jean, the Town Council representative on the ZBA. “It will actually improve the condition that exists today, as there will be more of a non-encroached parking buffer.”
The board approved each application individually but added an amendment to the second application, making it subject to the Planning Board’s approval of the lot-line adjustment. The Planning Board is scheduled to review the church’s application on Aug. 12.
“Without the lot-line adjustment, there would be no buffer,” said ZBA Vice Chairman Jim O’Neil.