The debate over who will handle the required environmental review for the Trinity Episcopal Church redevelopment project is over.
Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, made a determination this week that designates the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals — not the Planning Board — as lead agency for the Trinity project, which involves converting the grounds into an events center, restaurant and inn.
In order for Trinity to proceed with the multimillion-dollar project that is opposed by a group of residents on South Main Street, the church must receive a use variance from the ZBA.
To grant the variance, the church must demonstrate hardship, and that the project would not alter the essential character of the neighborhood.
The church spent a good portion of 2017 seeking the variance. A ZBA decision to grant it was later rescinded by the same panel in the face of a lawsuit brought by neighbors who have argued that the project will have a detrimental effect on the neighborhood. Their arguments in court focused more on the technical aspects of the approval process.