Breckenridge’s St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church development agreement moves forward after 13 years

BRECKENRIDGE — At the Breckenridge Town Council work session Tuesday, council members were presented with a planning request from St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church, which was asking for a waiver for some development code policies regarding density, parking and historic landmarks.

The church’s development plan aims to address a failing foundation, the need to bring the building up to current code and the need to accommodate growing programs. The need for a waiver is because the church is a historic landmark, and there are several policies restricting construction on the building.

The planning department presented the community benefits the proposal would bring, including the expansion of community services such as dinner programs and food pantries as well as the ability to provide bigger and better meeting groups for community members dealing with substance use or mental health issues.

The construction plans also would bring the church into compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to Catherine Ashton-Hirst, architect for the project and historic preservationist, a similar project was brought to council in 2006.

“The church wanted to do a project back then that was larger in scope, and it was too big of a project, and it just didn’t go forward. It had too many hurdles,” Ashton-Hirst said.

Ashton-Hirst explained that she used what the church learned from the 2006 proposal to structure the new proposal.

After asking about the details, including how long construction would take and how the building would be brought into ADA compliance, council members stated their support for the proposal, which was met by clapping and cheers from churchgoers who filled the council chamber seats to show their support for the project.

“There we go. There’s our tithe,” Mayor Eric Mamula said.

Ashton-Hirst was overwhelmed by the news after the meeting as churchgoers remarked what a great accomplishment this was.

“Last night was a beautiful example of the community coming together to do something that’s needed and something that’s right. It is so many people coming together to make what happened, happen,” Ashton-Hirst said Wednesday.

An ordinance will be drafted and presented to council for official approval. Ashton-Hirst expressed optimism for the project going forward from a town perspective but knows it will be a slow process.

“The next step for us is trying to figure out how the ‘little church that could’ can raise the money for this project,” she said.

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