NORTH STONINGTON — A church in North Stonington is asking the town to help it dispose of two small pieces of land that have deed restrictions on how they can be used.
The plots at 119 and 123A Clarks Falls Road belong to the North Stonington Baptist Church and contain two historical buildings, including a one-room schoolhouse dating to 1860 and an 1888 chapel.
The church doesn’t use the properties, First Selectman Mike Urgo said, but they’re deeded in such a way that selling them would be difficult.
“They have these two properties that they can’t do anything with because in the deed it says they can only be sold for church use,” Urgo said. “There’s only so many churches out there.”
One option would be for the town to activate a “reverter” clause in the two deeds, transferring the properties to the town and allowing the government to dispose of them.
The other route would be for the town to accept the parcels and return them to the church without the clauses that restrict their use, Urgo said. “This should go to town meeting,” he said.
Another hindrance: The lots aren’t adjacent to one another and don’t have septic systems, Urgo said.
“But it would be a good service to the town to try to figure something out so that these properties aren’t sitting in disrepair,” he said.
Pastor Tim Gengarella said the reverter clause for one parcel was put in by the town and a reverter clause placed on the other parcel by the seller was accepted by the town during the original transfers to the church.
“We have tried over the last seven years to give these buildings away,” Gengarella said. “Our hands are completely tied on this. It has to go to a church.”
But no one is interested, he said, and the lack of water and septic systems is usually the deal-breakers.
“It’s cost us a lot of money to keep those buildings idle. They could be of value to somebody else,” Gengarella said.
Selectman Robert Carlson said he’d like to take a walkthrough of the properties and do more research.
Urgo said he was willing to work with the church to find a solution. “I totally favor doing something to get them out of this situation,” he said. “We need to open the discussion back up. They’re stuck and these properties are in disrepair.”
The town’s historical society has expressed no interest in the parcels, according to Gengarella and others at Tuesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting. Several years ago the selectmen declined to exercise the reverter clauses.
“We’re a new board,” Urgo said. “We’re trying to get things right. We’re a pretty reasonable board.”