New house of worship approved

MILFORD – Several years after planning began, the 150-year-old Milford United Methodist Church has received town permission to build a new church on North River Road, even as it talks with a buyer for its historic property just north of the post office.

“It will be a more modern building, with more usable space,” said Steve Rafter, chairman of the church building committee, after Tuesday’s approval by the Planning Board.

If all goes well, the roughly 300-person congregation hopes to move into the new building in about a year. The plan still needs some permits from the state regarding drainage and similar issues.

Milford United Methodist Church sits on the corner of Amherst Street and Route 13, or Mont Vernon Street. The building, formerly a Baptist church, was moved there in the 19th century, when moving buildings was more common.

It occupies less than an acre.

Like many downtown churches, Milford United Methodist has struggled with lack of parking and modern amenities. Similar concerns have led the nearby Church of Our Savior, which literally has no parking, to also plan a move elsewhere in town – in that case, to open land on Route 13 South.

Milford United Methodist officials say they have a likely buyer for the historic property, but declined Tuesday to identify who it is.

The new church, in a roughly $1.2 million project, will be built at the former site of Morrison’s garage, opposite the state Fish Hatchery on North River Road. The 300-seat church will occupy roughly the same location as the current garage building, and have 144 parking spaces.

The church will occupy about a quarter of the 11.3-acre property.

In other action, the Planning Board on Tuesday also approved an expansion of the Milford Medical Center on Nashua Street.

The addition, which includes an expansion from 70 to 99 parking spaces, will allow up to an extra doctor at the center and an extra doctor in the adjoining pediatric unit.

The facility is owned and run by St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua.