Letter: Portsmouth may regret destroying chapel

The former Elmhurst School chapel, after its stained-glass windows had been removed. The former Elmhurst School chapel, after its stained-glass windows had been removed.

The former Elmhurst School chapel, after its stained-glass windows had been removed.

The former Elmhurst School chapel, after its stained-glass windows had been removed.

Editor’s note: The following letter, dated Dec. 20, was addressed to the Portsmouth Town Council.

To the editor:

I disagree with the recent decision by the Town Council to destroy the Elmhurst chapel for both economic ground and historical preservation reasons, but will restrict my comments to economic ones. I leave it to others to advance the historical, cultural and emotional benefits to preserve the chapel.

For the past year, I have served on the Portsmouth Economic Development Committee (PEDC). (Note: While I am speaking for myself, (I) am not representing the formal position of the PEDC. However, I do reflect the views of several of the members.)

As you are aware, the PEDC has spent the past year evaluating numerous proposals to “close the gap” between the expense and revenue projections for the coming years, and to prepare the Economic Development Section of the Comprehensive Community Plan. We have concluded that there is no one “big thing” that will, in of itself, close the gap, but rather the town should enable multiple efforts that will contribute to the long-term economic development of the town.

One such effort is to increase the economic potential of the Glen Manor complex by synergistically enhancing the existing facilities. It has been noted that the immediate area has underutilized facilities including, but not limited to, excess sewage treatment capacity, parking, a pleasant waterfront vista and access, and especially the chapel, that make the chapel an extremely attractive complement to the Glen Manor House.

The council reported that they had not seen any viable proposals to maintain, renovate or further develop the chapel, or to us it for weddings and other events that would make the Glen Manor House even more economically viable. I am not endorsing or evaluating any specific proposals, nor the estimated costs to stabilize the chapel. But, from an economic potential perspective, any preordained precipitous decision to destroy the chapel now would foreclose any possible long-term benefit, and would result in a wasted opportunity. I have not personal financial or emotional interest in any proposal.

A question: Has the council submitted an RFP (request for proposal) to solicit proposals to exploit the revenue potential of the Glen Manor House complex, including a renovated chapel? Future town residents (and future councils) may question and regret the council’s decision to destroy the chapel at this time.

I recommend that the Town Council postpone any irrevocable decision regarding the chapel pending an evaluation of all alternatives, an anticipated improvement in the overall town economy, and the adoption of the Comprehensive Community Plan.

Emil T. Cipolla

Portsmouth

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