“The choice is clear: to lease out the space to Royal Farms, or close it all down and fence it off.”
By Lorie Henry
We at Trinity Church Oxford would like to tell our story about how we hope to save our historic church (founded in 1693 and built in 1711) and save open space for our neighbors.
We face a very tough choice, to lease out part of our property to save the historic church, or to close the church, fence it off and deny access to our neighbors, which we don’t want to do.
We have proposed leasing part of our land along Rising Sun Avenue in the commercial area to Royal Farms for a restaurant, gas station and convenience store. The rent from that property would then allow us to keep the church open in the residential section and keep some open space for our neighbors.
If we are stopped from this lease arrangement, we will have no choice but to close the church, fence off the property for liability reasons and deny access to the whole city block for everyone who uses the only real open space in the area. That, we don’t want to do.
A small group has protested our efforts under a “Stop Royal Farms” campaign, but that group is working against our community, because if they succeed in stopping this lease, it will mean the end of the church and the open space.
The choice is clear: to lease out the space to Royal Farms, or close it all down and fence it off.
Our opponents have said there are other ways to save the Parish House, other renters who could use the current building. Trinity has been working at this for more than five years and the building can’t be used as it is. The Parish House needs a significant investment just to bring it up to code, and the rent will hardly pay for the heat bill let alone the upkeep on the old church and cemetery, which is the historic part of the property. We have tried since 2012 to find a suitable tenant for this property and come up empty. If a solution is not found soon, our limited resources will force us to close down. We do not have additional years to find a solution. We need to act now.
The opponents are well-meaning, but their actions could really hurt our community.
The best solution for the community is to allow the lease to go through, let us keep the church open and use the open space.
In fact, we at the church are going out to the community to ask our neighbors what you would like to see in the open space that we will develop near our church. Would you like to see a community garden? A Little League field? A dog park? A soccer field? A playground? We are communicating with the neighbors to get their input.
It comes down to this. Do we want to close the church and entire city block, or give the neighbors a church and open space with something they really want? That’s the choice. The best solution for the community is to allow the lease deal to go through with Royal Farms, save the church and use the open space for the community. ••
Lorie Henry is the Rector’s Warden for Trinity Church Oxford, 601 Longshore Ave.