June 19, 2018

Church preservation group to appeal judge's denial of injunction to halt demolition

Photo/Grant Welker
The former Notre Dame des Canadiens church may be on its last days, but a group of residents is still working to save it from demolition.

A group of citizens trying to prevent the demolition of the Notre Dame Des Canadiens church will appeal a judge's decision to deny the group's injunction against the property owner.

In an email to WBJ, the Save Notre Dame Alliance said it plans to appeal Worcester Superior Court Judge Gavin Reardon's Monday ruling that denied the group's request for a temporary injunction to halt the church's demolition.

"After reviewing Judge Gavin Reardon's ruling denying a temporary injunction to stop the demolition of Notre Dame des Canadiens, the plaintiffs believe that Judge Reardon's interpretation of the law is incorrect and therefore will be appealing the ruling to the Massachusetts Appeals Court," the group said, adding that they have retained Boston environmental law firm McGregor & Legere to represent them in the appeal.

The group warned that CitySquare II — an entity backed by Worcester-based Hanover Insurance Group and owner of the building and major developer of the $565 million public-private City Square project — will commence demolition at their own risk if they choose to do so pending the appeal.

Save Notre Dame Alliance is also floating another option: preserving only the outer shell, similar to the Old Stone Church in West Boylston. The group brought the idea to the City Council's Tuesday meeting.

City Manager Edward Augusts said he would ask CitySquare II if it would allow another independent inspection of the building, and Councilor Konstantino Lukes said she would ask the city for $10,000 for a structural inspection.

On Monday after news of the judge's ruling, Pamela Jonah, spokeswoman for CitySquare II, said "surgical demolition" related to environmental remediation has resumed. Jonah reiterated that response Tuesday.

In a Monday ruling, Judge Gavin Reardon called the effort to save the church understandable and admirable, but said the group's likelihood of success in court is low.

On Monday, Save Notre Dame's co-leader Ted Conna said he wasn't sure if the group had any other options.

The City Council did not act on the group's petitions to take several steps to save the church, including spending up to $15 million to acquire and renovate the church for public use.

Earlier this month, Mayor Joseph Petty said the city has exhausted its options to save the church in the absence of a private developer willing to take on the costs of rehabilitating the structure, especially as the city eyes school building projects costing upwards of $500 million.

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