Ridgefield's St. Stephen's sticks with plan to sell South Hall

Leaders of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Ridgefield say they're committed to selling South Hall, which is located near the church. A proposal to make the building a group home for disabled adults did not meet the church's needs.

Leaders of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Ridgefield say they’re committed to selling South Hall, which is located near the church. A proposal to make the building a group home for disabled adults did not meet the church’s needs.

Lori Mazzola / Ridgefield Voters United / Contributed photo

St. Stephen’s Church leadership is moving forward with plans to sell South Hall, a gray wood frame house near the church, according to St. Stephen’s Rector the Rev. Whitney Altopp.

“The South Hall Sale Committee of the Vestry will be approaching a broker for the sale, so you may soon be seeing their sign on the South Hall lawn,” Altopp wrote in an email to the congregation Thursday, Dec. 10.

“...We just received word from the Bishops and Standing Committee that they have consented to our request to sell South Hall. We brought the request to them following the 80-6-1 vote of the parish on October 2, a first step in the procedures of Episcopal Church polity.”

A petition among some townspeople and some church members, supporting the idea of renting the building for $1 a year as a group home for disabled adults hasn’t dissuaded church leadership of the need to sell.

Proceeds of the building’s eventual sale are expected to finance improvements ranging from handicapped-accessible rest rooms to a revamping of the church parking area that would bring it into compliance with town and state wetlands regulations.

Altopp and other church leaders entertained a group home proposal from representatives of Ability Beyond and the town’s Affordable Housing Committee, but did not find it met church needs.

Affordable Housing Committee Chairman Dave Goldenberg said the proposal had been withdrawn.

“While we are disappointed with the church’s decision, we fully respect their right to do with their property as they please,” Goldenberg said. “We work with many local organizations and would never undertake to interfere in their operations.

“There is a clear, pressing need for additional housing for adults with disabilities in Ridgefield,” he added, “and the Affordable Housing Committee looks forward to working with Ability Beyond and others to help create it.”

Altopp released a statement on the status of church plans earlier this week.

“We continue with our plans to sell the property,” Altopp said. “The congregation's commitment to the sale is strong as evidence by the 80-6-1 vote to proceed.

“The leadership will review any offers to purchase the building that we receive when the time comes.

“The proposal from Ability Beyond was not a proposal to buy the building.”

In Thursday’s emial to the congregation, Altopp said, “All viable proposals will come before the Vestry, which will make the final decision regarding the sale. For almost 300 years we have sought to be a good neighbor within Ridgefield, and our commitment on that front remains strong. Our Mission is Embracing and Living into God’s Commandment to Love our Neighbor-- through worship, stewardship, and service to others.

“We have sought to be a good neighbor in Ridgefield for all of the centuries that we’ve stood on this little plot of land,” Altopp said. “Our commitment remains strong.”