Troy groups disagree on historical significance of 1800s church

Feb 24, 2018
  • By Nancy Bowman
  • Contributing Writer
The former Trinity Episcopal Church on East Franklin Street in Troy — here shown as the Adkins Center — may be demolished to accommodate expansion of the Franklin House shelter next door (right). NANCY BOWMAN / STAFF

Miami County Family Abuse Shelter leaders are ready to move forward with expansion of the Franklin House in downtown Troy despite continuing opposition to the agency’s plans to demolish an 1830s church for the project.

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The debate on the future of the former Trinity Episcopal Church, which is owned by the nonprofit shelter, soon could be in the hands of City Hall when the shelter files for a demolition permit.

Shelter leaders including board president David Beitzel said they have expert opinions from an architect and two structural engineers that the building is in a deteriorated condition and from an expert in historical structures that it is not of historical significance.

They are countered by a group of individuals including leaders of historical organizations calling themselves the Unity for Trinity Committee. The committee said it has expert opinions the structure is of significance, can be repaired and is “fundamentally sound.”

The committee said the church is a community asset and historically important as the only structure left with noteworthy ties to the canal era as the site of an 1837 canal dedication speech by future president William Henry Harrison and with ties to the area’s Underground Railroad system.

The process through the city to get rid of the old church would require two permit applications, Patrick Titterington, city service and safety director, said. The applications would go before the city Planning Commission.

The applications would be for a demolition permit, required for structure demolition anywhere in the city.

The second application would be a historic overlay application showing in detail how the applicant plans to use the property involved if demolition is approved.

The planning commission is not required to have a public hearing but staff “would probably recommend there be one” for this project, Titterington said. The commission decision could be appealed to the city Board of Zoning Appeals by a “legitimate interested party” or the applicant.

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“To date, we have seen no indication that the Family Abuse Shelter has given careful consideration to alternatives. Many other local nonprofits - among them Partners in Hope, the Miami County Recovery Council, and the St. Patrick’s Soup Kitchen - have relocated as their programs have expanded. Family Abuse Shelter officials seem inexplicably opposed to considering alternative sites, despite the concerns shared by neighbors, local historical groups, and the downtown Troy community,” the Unity for Trinity Committee said in a statement Feb. 21.

“Demolishing this very important building would reflect poorly on our city and detract from historic downtown Troy,” the committee said in its statement. “It’s time that the Family Abuse Shelter’s leadership get serious about collaborating with others in the community to reach a solution and address valid concerns that have been raised about their planned expansion.”

The shelter for victims of domestic violence and homeless women was opened in 1979, is full and needs to expand into the proposed new building that would become the domestic violence wing, said Barb Holman, the shelter’s executive director. The church is located to the east of the Franklin House shelter.

“We feel like we have done our due diligence in researching and accessing experts,” she said.

Holman said a new location won’t be considered because of the current shelter home and the proximity of the shelter to the nearby Troy Police Department and county Courthouse, where victims can access services.

Efforts to raise money for the expansion are getting underway while final touches are being placed on plans Homan described as 95 percent complete.

The Unity for Trinity Committee proposed in a packet presented to the shelter in December that it consider moving operations and repairing the church and using it for other purposes.

Holman said a proposed move to a building located adjacent to the railroad tracks was not seen as acceptable in part due to safety concerns for children who stay at the shelter. Beitzel said an offer to give the church to the committee to move wherever it would like still stands.

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“It will be very difficult to move the church because it is made of very old bricks, which can be broken when moved. It cannot just be jacked up and transported as many buildings can be moved,” Judy Deeter of the Unity for Trinity committee, said.

Representatives of both groups have met and are scheduled to meet again the week of Feb. 26.

The committee’s online petition is available on the change.org website; search for Troy Historic Buildings.

The abuse shelter has posted documents outlining its position on the expansion on the shelter website at www.familyabuseshelterofmiamicounty.org.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com