A resurrection for empty East Otis church?
OTIS -- A town resident has pitched an idea to designate the derelict East Otis Church and the adjacent school a historical district.
The East Otis Church, which is boarded up, has been on a track toward demolition after about 20 years of indecision. But Otis resident Harold Kobrin is calling for its restoration and has asked selectmen for time to explore state historical grants and other funding avenues.
The Board of Selectmen -- which appeared unconvinced the building could be salvaged -- agreed to allow a public meeting on the church.
Kobrin said the meeting will likely be held in March or early April.
"We want to see if the town has an interest," said Kobrin, who is also on the Planning Board.
The meeting will be organized by the Historical Commission and Planning Board to determine if there is support to salvage the building and for the historic district designation, he said.
The East Otis Church, formerly a Baptist church, was first built in the early 1900s and has been abandoned since the 1980s. At one time, the church was a central fixture in East Otis, but its condition is to the point that town officials call it a public safety hazard.
There are members on the Historical Commission who say the building shouldn't be torn down, but town officials question its historical value and say it's cost-prohibitive to do repairs.
"This thing is a disaster," said Selectman Donald Hawley. "The only situation is to get rid of it. And now we're going to save it? Why?"
Kobrin said he has talked to the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and they were receptive to his pitch for a "historical district made up of one lot."
Grants from Massachusetts Historical require a match, Kobrin said, but he argued that if community support is strong enough it should be explored.
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