- Associated Press - Friday, November 13, 2015

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. (AP) - A little-known quirk in property laws has nixed the proposed sale of an eastern Vermont church to a local developer.

Members of the United Methodist Church in White River Junction voted 34-30 to sell their church to Byron Hathorn in September, The Valley News reported (https://bit.ly/1kSfGnx).

Members of the congregation believed they reached a deal to sell the building in exchange for Hathorn’s construction of a new church nearby, but the vote was rendered meaningless.

After the sides came together to finalize the sale, it was discovered that Vermont’s laws governing the purchase of property from religious groups varies by denomination.

In the eyes of the state, the deal couldn’t go through because the decision to sell a Methodist church requires approval from two-thirds of its members - not just a majority.

“It’s a law that we really didn’t know about,” said Brigid Farrell, who acts as superintendent for the Vermont district of the United Methodist Church’s New England conference.

Church leaders called for another vote Tuesday, and the sale was once again approved but not by the two-thirds needed.

Hathorn hoped to build a five-story, $20 million assisted living facility on the land that now houses the church.

The Ely-based developer said there is “nothing realistic” the church can do to preserve the deal. He plans to go ahead with construction of the assisted living facility on his own 1-acre plot adjacent to the church.

The failure of the sale has caused a ripple effect that has divided the congregation as church leaders address much-needed repairs and maintenance.

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Information from: Lebanon Valley News, https://www.vnews.com

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