Norway Planning Board approves amended Jehovah's Witness building design

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The Planning Board voted unanimously Thursday evening to approve an amended design of a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on Greenwood Road. Chairman Dennis Gray said the amended design fit the aesthetics of Greenwood Road better than the first two designs. (Matthew Daigle/Sun Journal)

NORWAY — The Planning Board voted unanimously Thursday evening to approve a site-plan application for a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on Greenwood Road.

The board also voted to allow Code Enforcement Officer Scott Tabb to issue a building permit for the organization, if it meets all of the town’s standards.

During the board’s Dec. 14 meeting, Chairman Dennis Gray told representatives from the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the board would draft a list of changes that residents seek for the building’s exterior to make it compatible with the town’s rural villages.

Joseph Greenler of Kingdom Hall said that the entrance driveway was relocated to the northern boundary of the property, placing it 600 feet away from the entrance to Waterford Road and 525 feet from the site.

He added that the designers have addressed an issue that generated significant concern among local residents at the Dec. 14 meeting: The style of the building.

Many residents said the building’s earlier design looked “too commercial” for Greenwood Road.

Greenler told the board Thursday that designers proposed a mansard roof for the building, which “changes the look tremendously.”

The Planning Board disagreed, however, saying the building still did not fit with the look of neighboring houses.

Gray distributed pictures of other Kingdom Hall structures that were closer to what the board is seeking.

Greenler explained to Gray that the buildings in the photographs were “stick built,” and “we’re trying to stay away from wood as much as possible.”

Planning Board member Mary Lou St. John asked Greenler why Kingdom Hall did not demolish the old church on Harrison Road and rebuild on the same site, rather than building at Greenwood Road.

“The topography is really difficult over there for what we want to do,” Greenler said

Near the end of the meeting, Greenler told the Planning Board that he was “not quite getting what the concern is.”

“The public feels that the building was not compatible to other buildings in the neighborhood,” Gray said.

“The major concern is that, ultimately, this would have an impact on the resale value of their property. As we also indicated, the road is an entryway to two of our three outlying historic districts. I’m not entirely sure that the building’s design lends itself to being a gateway to our historic districts.”

Greenler presented the Planning Board with an alternate design that added wood trim around the windows.

“That’s getting a little closer,” Planning Board member Tony Morra said.

Greenler then handed out another alternate design that used more wood than the previous design.

He told the Planning Board it was the design they were least interested in building, since they wanted to stay away from using wood.

The Planning Board said that the third design would “blend in better” with homes in the area.

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