Church's changes backed

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AIKEN --- The city's planning commission has sided with a church that wants to remove its rectory and colonnade from the Aiken Historic Register.

The commission voted Tuesday night to recommend that the city council approve St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church's request. The church on York Street says it needs to expand to accommodate its growing congregation, but the historical designation stands in the way.

Planning Director Ed Evans said that if the city council approves the commission's recommendation, the proposed changes would then go before the Design Review Board.

"Even if it comes off the Aiken Historic Register, it's still in the downtown overlay district, so the Design Review Board still has to approve the complete removal of the rectory and the colonnade," he said.

The 102-year-old church building has just 300 seats but an average attendance of 2,100 at five Masses on Saturday and Sunday.

"The zoning ordinance says that the board cannot approve demolition of a landmark," Mr. Evans said.

The commission also voted to recommend that the sanctuary and St. Claire's Chapel remain on the registry but that the definition of demolition be "softened" to allow St. Mary to knock out the back wall of the sanctuary, Mr. Evans said.

The church's plans also call for removal of the parish hall and a two-car garage. The expansion would add 1,200 seats.

The recommendation will be on the Jan. 14 city council agenda.

Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or michelle.guffey@augustachronicle.com.


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