2017-09-22 / Community

Town tweaks rules for church use

By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer


The Cape Elizabeth Town Council has tweaked the rules to rent Spurwink Church in order to make operation of the venue more efficient. Changes include an increased showing fee, the elimination of the parking attendant, expectations for cleanup and a defined schedule for how multiple events on a day are held. (Michael Kelley photo) The Cape Elizabeth Town Council has tweaked the rules to rent Spurwink Church in order to make operation of the venue more efficient. Changes include an increased showing fee, the elimination of the parking attendant, expectations for cleanup and a defined schedule for how multiple events on a day are held. (Michael Kelley photo) CAPE ELIZABETH – Spurwink Church, a 215-year-old former Congregational church that has been under the control of the town for the last 60 years, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and for years has been a popular venue for weddings. The town council took time last week to approve a series of changes that better manage how, and when the church is used for special events.

Although demand for the space is down, the council adopted a provision that states: “rentals shall be scheduled for two-hour intervals. The church will be opened one hour ahead of the scheduled start time of the event and closed one hour after the scheduled start time of the event” in an effort to better manage events. The church is expected to be cleaned and vacated by the time the rental period ends. In the event more than one event is scheduled a day, the policy will now be that the second event cannot occur for at least an hour after the first event ends, meaning if one event begins at 1 p.m., the second event cannot be held until at least 4 p.m. to build in a better buffer between events. The changes also include a section about the town’s responsibility should an event have to be canceled by the town for “unforeseen circumstances.”

The showing fee was bumped up from $35 to $40, a change that was met with some concern from Councilor Caitlin Jordan.

“If I am looking for a wedding venue and I got five churches to pick from and I have to pay $40 just to look at this one, I might not even bother to come look at it, which is why our wedding revenues are down, maybe,” she said.

Town Clerk Debra Lane said it’s been competition from other venues and the push for more barn-style weddings, not the fee structure, that has caused special event bookings to fall.

Councilor Kathy Ray has seen this first hand.

“I’ve lived in that neighborhood for 23 years. It used to be you had to book there two years in advance and every weekend in the summer you’d have two or three weddings,” Ray said.

Parking for events will now be self-parking and not managed by a town employee.

“We’ve talked about this for awhile now that self parking would be the best approach,” Lane said.

Burning candles are not permitted for ceremonies, nor is the throwing of confetti, birdseed, rice, and, now with the most recent changes, live or artificial flower petals. In the past, Lane said, flower petals and other items, have stained and become ground into carpeting in the building.

Ray said she understands the concern about staining and making sure the church is picked up after a ceremony, but was leery of the council making it so restrictive that holding an event in the space is “not something people are enticed to do.”

Lane said a lot of the provisions in the policy have been long-standing practices that were only tweaked by the latest review.

The changes made by the council did not change the fact that special events, of up to 150 individuals, can only be held at the venue from May 1 to Oct. 31 due to inadequate heating.

While the church is open to anyone looking to use it, to get the resident rate for a wedding, the bride, groom or the parent of the bride and groom has to live in Cape Elizabeth. To obtain the resident rate for a funeral, the deceased must have once resided in Cape Elizabeth and for the resident rate for christening, the child, or parent of the child, must be a resident.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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