The future of the long-neglected Nobscot Union Chapel seems brighter today as the town has taken over the 19th century meeting house and plans to put the chapel up for auction.
The town gained possession of the chapel through foreclosure on August 2 because there was an outstanding balance of at least $15,000 in water and utility charges. The town started moving against the property in 2004, said Town treasurer Steve Price.
The chapel is located at the intersection of Water Street and Edgell Road in Nobscot and was built around 1885.
Laurie Lee, a town Selectman, and a resident of the neighborhood, said determining ownership of the property was complicated because it was owned by trustees, many of whom are deceased, that created the Nobscot Chapel Association.
“If there was a clear line of owner responsibility, the town wouldn’t do this (taking the property). But the town had no choice,” said Lee, who emphasized she was speaking solely as a resident and not as a Selectman. The topic of the Nobscot Chapel has not officially been brought before the Board of Selectmen.
In Framingham, the Town Manager is tax title custodian and will work with the Board of Selectmen to establish a date for an auction, according to Price.
Stephen Meltzer, a Framingham attorney and founder of the Framingham-based Land Conservation and Advocacy Trust, had investigated the chapel situation and was beginning work on ways to conserve the property. “I had talked to some of the trustees and they were amiable to the idea of saving the chapel,” said Meltzer. “But it was too little, too late. The town had already started the process (of taking the property).”
“If it goes to auction, who knows what will happen,” he said.
Meltzer said he may try and raise funds and bid on the chapel at an auction, but he wasn’t sure if he could pull together enough funds to even meet the property’s assessed value of about $283,000.
“An alternative would be if the town is willing, it could dispose of the property below market value if there was enough public interest,” said Meltzer. “It would have to demonstrate public support for that.”
Meltzer said he had the building evaluated and found that it is structurally sound and with some cosmetic and minor work could be put in use.
“My vision would be to place the building under preservation and have it available for community use. It could be a meeting place for neighborhood groups.”