GENEVA — After years of legal wrangling and multiple government reviews, the plan to redevelop Trinity Episcopal Church into a 25-room inn, events center and restaurant is expected to move into the construction phase early next year.
On Monday night, the city Planning Board approved the site plan for the South Main Street project while also granting a special use permit related to parking for larger events.
Project developer Mark McGroarty, whose company McGroarty Investments is redeveloping the church and a neighboring home owned by Trinity, was pleased with the Planning Board’s actions.
“We would like to extend our thanks to the Planning Board for approving our site plan and special use permit,” he said in a statement to the Finger Lakes Times. “Being in the South Main Street Historic District, we strived to ensure that our site plan, signage, lighting, parking, traffic design, etc., conformed to the historical nature of the neighborhood. By the overwhelming margin of approval (6-1) by the board, we are very pleased that the board agreed with our strategy. We have always wanted the inn to be part of the neighborhood.”
McGroarty said he hopes to get started in February.
A stipulation of the Zoning Board’s 2018 use variance approval for the non-conforming use of the South Main Street property required Trinity and McGroarty Investments to secure 35 additional off-site parking spaces, in addition to 76 on-site, for large events.
Those additional spaces will be at Finger Lakes Community College on Pulteney Street. Last week, the Ontario County Board of Supervisors approved the parking arrangement in exchange for FLCC scholarship funds and internships in related fields of study.
“We wish to extend our appreciation to the Ontario County Board of Supervisors and Robert Nye (FLCC president) for their consent to allow parking at their Geneva campus for any large events that may be held at the event space,” McGroarty said.
Neal Braman, director of development services for the city, noted the lengthy process for Trinity — from first applying for a zoning use variance back in 2017 to Monday night’s Planning Board approval. The COVID-19 pandemic played a role in delaying the project as well, he said.
Additional delays were caused by a lengthy legal battle with South Main Street residents opposed to the project.
In December, a state Appellate Court upheld a lower court ruling that dismissed a petition to overturn the Zoning Board of Appeals’ approval of the use variance. That decision essentially exhausted all legal challenges for the opponents.
Trinity Rector Cam Miller issued a statement Tuesday following the Planning Board’s approvals.
“The congregation of Trinity Church is grateful to the citizen leaders of Geneva and Ontario County who have guided this project through civic and legal discernment to arrive at this moment,” he said.
“We first began our own discernment with how to preserve the building for the sake of Geneva and the Episcopal Diocese, and embark on our own new future as a congregation, in 2016. While our vision and direction has been slowed, those with legal and civic stewardship have understood and supported what we have always believed is the grace of our plan. We are uplifted by the Planning Board’s decision, and we pray for a successful and expedient completion of the project. We are also grateful that during this time, which has included the pandemic, we have been able to grow as a congregation and become revitalized.”
Trinity is one of two major building projects in the South Main Street/Lochland Road (Route 14) area projected to start early next year.
Pine Ridge Construction plans to build a 125-bed hotel, restaurant and brewery and up to 60 townhouses on 13 acres of lakefront property it is buying from the American Legion. It hopes to get started in March.
McGroarty does not see the projects as competitors.
“I was also pleased to hear that there is a proposal for the redevelopment of the Legion property,” he said. “It appears their plans will bring many new jobs to Geneva, which is a benefit for all, to say nothing of the additional tax revenue to be generated from the redevelopment. Their plans will bring new people and visitors to the Geneva area — a bonus for all. We believe their plans will have little impact on our project as we will serve a different clientele. We wish them success in their endeavors.”
Braman said the only step left for the Trinity project is issuing a building permit.