Buyer to move into former St. James rectory in South Deerfield, uncertain about church building

Last modified: Sunday, December 29, 2013
SOUTH DEERFIELD — The new owner of the former St. James Roman Catholic Church says she is still deciding what she will do with the 2,900-square-foot church building on North Main Street.

Laurie Cuevas of Cheshire purchased the church and rectory at 83 and 85 North Main St., this month from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield for $225,000. Cuevas plans to move into the 3,055-square-foot, two-floor rectory in the next couple of weeks with her two sons, who will transfer to Frontier Regional School. The rectory includes three full baths, two half baths, two kitchens and six bedrooms.

But Cuevas was tight-lipped about her plans for the church building. She said she had no specific plans at the moment but intends to do something with it. She said first she is focusing on repairs of the building.

A deed restriction on the sale was that the property not be put to any use inconsistent with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Residential use is OK.

“I’ve been looking for a place in the area to get closer to my farm and business I have in Hadley,” Cuevas said. She said she loves the old church building and the South Deerfield community, a quality she believes helped in her bid for the property. Cuevas is the part-owner of Maple Valley Creamery, a Hadley business using hormone-free milk from local dairies to make ice cream.

She also works in marketing at SABIC, a worldwide plastics company specializing in thermoplastics with a headquarters in Pittsfield. No commercial venture is allowed on the property, Building Inspector Richard Calisewski said. The property is within the residential/agricultural district. The only uses allowed are educational, nonprofit and religious, Calisewski said. No special permit would be allowed, either.

A zoning change would be required to allow a commercial use on North Main Street, but this would be considered spot zoning, which is illegal.

Calisewski said he does not know the condition of the church building. There are no bathrooms. The two buildings on the 2.1-acre lot have not had any activity since the Springfield Diocese decided to merge St. James Parish with St. Stanislaus Parish to form Holy Family Parish on Sugarloaf Street in 2008.

St. Stanislaus is used for the joint parish, and the St. James building was shuttered.