Methodists ask, and Lordprovides buyer for church

Scott Condon
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Lord is on the move in the midvalley.

The Basalt Community United Methodist Church has a contract to sell its classic Victorian chapel on Homestead Drive. An offer was made for the 107-year-old church building Thursday, just a week after it was officially marketed, according to Diane Ash, the listing real estate agent with the Roaring Fork Land Co.

She couldn’t reveal who made the offer or the proposed sale price because the deal hasn’t been closed. It is listed for $457,000.

The Methodist’s potential move was made possible by a string of sales involving churches in the midvalley. The Methodist congregation has placed an offer to buy nearly three acres of land and a church in Holland Hills owned by the Alpine Christian Fellowship.

The Fellowship offered that property for sale to help fund its purchase last year of the campus where it operates its highly regarded school at 20449 Highway 82, between Basalt and El Jebel.

The school campus property was sold by another congregation, which is currently shopping for a place to relocate while it holds Sunday services in the Eagle County Community Center.

“We’ve got a lot of church swapping going on in this deal,” said Ash.

The sale of the Methodist church will be eyed with the most interest because the stately white structure is such a big part of Basalt’s identity.

The majority of the 3,820-square-foot church was constructed in 1896. It has a stone foundation, vaulted ceiling, rows of regal windows and bell tower that looks out over the town.

The western portion of the church, including a meeting room and office, was added in 1964.

The building is tucked against the hillside and takes up the vast majority of the 4,790-square-foot lot.

Doug Pratte, a member of the church’s acquisition committee, said the building has been “great for us” but no longer meets the congregation’s needs. “We’re trying to fit a number of programs into the facility that it just wasn’t designed for,” he said.

Parking and access for the elderly and handicapped are also issues. The congregation hopes to move to the Holland Hills property by June, then plan the future of that site. The Methodists will move into a church that’s about the same size as their existing facility.

The sale of the church in town is contingent on Basalt Community United Methodist’s acquisition of the building and property at Holland Hills. The flock won’t be caught without a home.

“We’ve been working diligently to make sure we’re not a homeless congregation,” Pratte said.

Once it’s time to leave, it will be a bittersweet experience. Pratte said that kids who have been baptized and confirmed there cannot fathom moving the services elsewhere. “It will be an emotional thing to leave,” he said.

Fortunately the congregation doesn’t have to weigh an offer that would doom the church. The prospective buyer has provided a letter of intent to turn the church into a residence, according to Pratte. In fact, there have been about 10 inquiries into the property and most of the interest was for turning the church into a home, Ash said.

Basalt has historic preservation guidelines that apply only to commercial buildings. Residences and the church were removed from the guidelines due to complaints from citizens.

If a buyer wants to tear down the church, public pressure rather than town regulations would stand in the way. However, the owner couldn’t construct as big a building on the land because of setbacks and other requirements of the town code.

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