BANGOR, Maine — A former state lawmaker is working to start a new church in Bangor so he can operate a Christian-based day care and preschool at the site of the former Forest Avenue Congregational Church.
The move comes after the city council declined Monday to overrule a Planning Board recommendation against rezoning the property. The rezoning would have enabled Bangor Christian Daycare and Preschool to operate from the site as a for-profit business.
If the property remains a church, the city will miss out on about $5,363 in annual property taxes, based on this year’s assessment.
Former Rep. Brian Duprey, R-Hampden, said Tuesday in the wake of the council’s decision he has begun negotiations for a church to rent space in the facility, which he plans to purchase in May.
By renting space to an existing church, he said he will be able to operate the day care at the 0.52-acre property at 300 Forest St. under the church’s umbrella.
Duprey, who serves as CEO of Duprey Enterprises Inc., declined to name the church, saying negotiations are not complete.
As an ordained pastor, Duprey said he may start his own non-denominational church as well, but details have not been settled.
“At this point, we’re going to at least begin the stages of forming a church, and we have another one interested in renting space, so we’re going to keep all options on the table right now,” he said.
Despite a majority vote in favor of rezoning the property from urban residential district to government and institutional service district, the council did not achieve Monday the required six votes to overturn the Planning Board’s recommendation.
Councilors Pat Blanchette, Sean Faircloth, Gibran Graham and Josh Plourde opposed the rezoning while councilors Pauline Civiello, David Nealley, Nelson Durgin, Joe Baldacci and Ben Sprague voted in favor.
Some councilors appeared hopeful Duprey would re-apply for a contract zone change. Unlike a standard zone change, a contract zone change would place restrictions on the specific property’s future use.
“I think that the request to have this as a day care is something that we should probably encourage and not discourage, because there are going to be limited uses for this property,” Baldacci said.
Duprey said after the meeting that he and his wife already have spent about $2,000 on application fees for the requested zoning change and there’s no guarantee a second attempt will succeed.
In the future, Duprey said they will try again to make the property a taxpaying entity, but he was not sure when that would be.
“We’ll make sure we have the neighbors happy first,” he said.
The Planning Commission voted 6-1 against the zone change during its meeting April 21. That decision came after neighbors expressed concern about increased traffic and the potential for the property to be used for other purposes in the future.
According to Planning Officer David Gould, the government institutional district originally was designed for nonprofit operations, such as churches, government offices and schools.
In the 1980s, he said, for-profit uses such as medical offices and pre-schools were added to the zoning district. Without restrictions, the property could be used for those purposes.
While the more than 100-year-old church building shows up on the city’s 1969 comprehensive land-use plan, by 1978 it had disappeared from city planning maps.
“There’s no sign of it anymore. It’s too small to be recognized,” Gould said.
Churches are allowed as a conditional use in the church’s current residential district with approval of the Planning Board, and day cares are allowed as an accessory function of that church, according to Gould.
The property has operated as a day care before. According to former Hampden Mayor Carol Duprey, wife of Brian Duprey, about 70 percent of the building was rented out for day care purposes as far back as 25 years ago.
With several day cares operating from the site over the years, Duprey Enterprises operated a day care that served about 45 children at the site from 2005 to 2008.
“Not once over my three years did I ever receive a complaint from a neighbor about traffic or the children,” she said.
Duprey Enterprises owns and operates Little Angels Daycare and Preschool with three locations in Bangor and one in Old Town.
Brian Duprey told the planning board last week the proposed day care initially would serve 30 to 40 children. By 2018, he said, they hope to expand to serving about 80 children, creating up to a dozen jobs.
Follow Evan Belanger on Twitter at @evanbelanger.