No good deed. . .
Stone Church society still waiting for document
A year after raising funds to purchase church, society still waiting for the deed.
Oh where of where has the former St. Alphonsus Church deed gone?
“We are still patiently waiting for the diocese to hand over the deed but it’s been a year of waiting for them,” said Melanie Sampson, president of the Stone Church Restoration Society, which entered into an agreement with the Diocese of Antigonish to purchase the church two years ago.
“The amount of time that has gone up is unacceptable and has caused great hardship to the society.
“It’s a year that has cost us a great financial costs because we weren’t able to rent out the property for outdoor weddings and events and we weren’t eligible for grants due to the fact we do not have the deed.”
The Stone Church Restoration Society was formed in February 2014 and in September 2015 the diocese agreed to the society’s offer of $40,000 for the former church and as per the agreement payment was made in four instalments, with the final payment in August 2016.
Sampson said the society has waited for a copy of the sale and purchase agreement since as well as the land subdivision and deed.
“Despite numerous attempts by our lawyer to get a purchase and sale agreement, the diocese keeps saying ‘It’s forthcoming’ and now two years have gone by.”
As well Sampson said the diocese submitted the subdivision to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality for approval yet they’ve never seen it.
“That concerns us because if it’s not exactly what we’ve agreed to they will have to go back and redo it, and that means more money and time, and we don’t have that.”
As well Sampson said a military group is supposed to be coming in November to provide labour and staging to put on a new roof on the church, as well as electrical and heating upgrades.
“However, we have to provide the deed so they can confirm we own the property.”
Sampson sent in a proposal for the military connection with the church, which was a safe haven for soldiers 100 years ago.
“They had movie nights there and they attended parish ball games with the parish priest against the children,” she said.
“They’ve been waiting for proof of ownership since and I’m scared we are going to lose this contract now.”
Sampson said she has left numerous messages for Bishop Brian Dunn the past two months and he has never returned any of her calls.
On Thursday the Cape Breton Post called Bishop Dunn at about 11:30 a.m. but he was in a meeting. At about 12:15 p.m. Dunn called Sampson and left a voice message. Dunn did not return the call to the Cape Breton Post.
David Paton, development officer with the CBRM, said a surveyor made application for a subdivision of the former St. Alphonsus Church property on June 7 on behalf of the owner the Catholic Episcopal Corp.
Basically it’s readjusting the boundaries to separate the cemeteries from the property being sold, he said.
Paton said the CBRM is in receipt of all the necessary approvals including from Departments of Environment and Transportation and the land registry.
“We received everything back we need to approve the plan but we have to wait for the property to be migrated.”
In a story in the Cape Breton Post on Jan. 29 about the delays, Rev. Paul Abbass said the property had to be subdivided, a complicated process that would take time.
Then in a Post story March 9, the diocese told Sampson they should have the deed in four to six weeks.
Friends Martin MacKinnon, 91, of South Bar, and Mike Campbell, 91 of New Victoria, are both life-long members of the former St. Alphonsus Church and members of the New Waterford and Area Cemetery Society.
MacKinnon married his wife Gloria in the church and Campbell his wife Peggy. Now both their wives have since died away and are buried there.
Although it was disappointing when the diocese closed the church there was a light at the end of the tunnel for MacKinnon when the society stepped forward to purchase it.
“We think that was a great idea,” he said.
With the delay and time gone by he hopes the society gets access to it soon. Campbell agrees. “Martin and I are always up here walking around as we love the area.”
Friends Martin MacKinnon, left, 91, of South Bar, and Mike Campbell, 91, of New Victoria, gather together in front of the former St. Alphonsus Church where both were not only life-long members but were married there and now have their wives buried there. MacKinnon and Campbell said it was sad to see the church close but they were happy the Stone Church Restoration Society has saved it and hope the society gets access to it soon.