‘Brown Church’ tax issue in Antrim won’t go to special Town Meeting

Antrim’s “Brown Church,” formerly Antrim Church of Christ. 

Antrim’s “Brown Church,” formerly Antrim Church of Christ.  STAFF PHOTO BY JESSECA TIMMONS

By JESSECA TIMMONS

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 06-04-2024 12:04 PM

The Antrim Select Board denied a resident petition to hold a special Town Meeting seeking to abate a tax lien on the town’s “Brown Church,” formerly the Antrim Church of Christ, at the May 28 meeting, stating that a special Town Meeting was not the appropriate means of resolving the situation.

The petition, which called for the town to forgive a $30,000 tax lien on the Brown Church to enable the Antrim Historical Society to accept the donation of the building, was signed by more than 150 residents.  

“I just want to go on record and make it very clear that the Select Board wants the Historical Society to get the church,” Select Board Chair Michael Ott said. “The problem is, this isn’t the method to do it.” 

Mott said that even if a special Town Meeting were held, the decision on the tax lien would still lie only with the Select Board.

“There's a whole discussion level about precedents if we forgive a lien in one case,” Mott said. “The question is, if we do this in one circumstance,  how do we stop the onslaught of people from not paying their taxes and trying to give their property away? So, we've got to be careful.”

Select Board member Bob Edwards said the issue was between the Select Board and the property owner. The Select Board passed a motion to reject the petition on the grounds that the matter was beyond the jurisdiction of Town Meeting. In answer to questions about the validity of the lien, Town Administrator Donna Hansen stated that “the lien was valid.” 

In fall 2023, trustees of the former Church of Christ building approached the Antrim Historical Society board about donating the Brown Church. AHS President Bill Nichols said that the Historical Society was excited about the offer.

“We knew this could be a really lovely space  for our museum, and that renovating this church could benefit the whole town,” Nichols said in April. “It would be terrible for the whole town if this beautiful, historic building was allowed to just fall down.”

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According to Nichols, when members of the AHS board did a title search, they learned there was a $30,000 lien on the building for unpaid taxes. Nichols said it is unclear why the building, which has always been a church, was being taxed.  In December 2023, Lee Davis, representing the owners of the former Church of Christ property, addressed the Antrim Select Board and proposed that the town abate the $30,000 tax debt, enabling the owners of the church to donate the building to the Antrim Historical Society. According the minutes of the meeting, the Select Board stated they would check on the issue with town counsel. 

Mott said counsel did not recommend forgiving the lien at this time, and that the Select Board was working on other ways to resolve the issue. 

“I just want to state again, we want this to happen,” Mott said at the close of the discussion. “It is just a question of how.”