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Norwell

Plan to purchase St. Helen’s Church property fizzles

The town’s plan to buy St. Helen’s Church on Route 53 for senior housing has fallen through after an independent appraisal came back at less than half the purchase price.

Norwell officials had offered the Archdiocese of Boston $9 million for the 10-acre property — bidding above a private developer — and planned to fund the purchase through its Community Preservation Act program. But the appraisal came back at $4.39 million, and officials said the town could not legally pay more than that amount under laws governing the use of CPA funds.

The Select Board said it also was advised that it would be “fiscally irresponsible” to buy the property for significantly more than the appraised value, regardless of the funding source.

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In a posting on the Norwell webpage, Town Administrator Darleen Sullivan said the town had asked to buy the property for the appraised value, but was told the archdiocese wanted to first negotiate with the next-highest bidders.

Sullivan said the town remains committed to “mitigating the impact” of development of the property, and plans to negotiate “buying down” the number of units that can be built there under a 40B proposal that encourages building affordable housing by allowing developers to bypass local zoning limits.

The town plans to ask the May Town Meeting to designate the site as an “economic opportunity area” where developers can receive a tax exemption in exchange for mutually agreed upon parameters.

The archdiocese announced in June 2022 that it would sell St. Helen’s and St. Thecla’s in Pembroke and build a new church at the site of St. Mary’s in Hanover. The three churches were united in a single parish in 2021 with one pastor serving all three church buildings.

Parishioners will all worship together in the new church in Hanover that can accommodate the growing congregation, according to the archdiocese.

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Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.