20 Years On, Scientology Site Still Stalled

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A former Westville department store remains fenced off, empty and rundown — 20 years after the Church of Scientology bought the property, five years after the church last won permission to convert the site into a religious hub, and one year after a city board found that the long-vacant building should stay off the tax rolls.

That’s the latest with 949 Whalley Ave.

This year marks the two-decade anniversary of the Church of Scientology’s purchase of the former Hallock’s furniture store property in September 2003 for $1.5 million. The building opened in the 1930s as a Masonic lodge.

For the past 20 years the prominent Westville building has sat empty under the ownership of a local chapter of a modern international religion founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, popularized by Hollywood celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and sharply criticized by investigative journalists like Lawrence Wright.

According to the city’s online tax records, the church, which operates out of a rented commercial storefront up a block across the street, has not had to pay any property taxes on 949 Whalley for at least a decade. The property remains tax-exempt today despite dissent between the city’s tax assessor and the Board of Assessment Appeals. (Read more on that below.) The city last appraised the property as worth nearly $3 million.

A key reason why the church has been able to preserve the property’s tax-exempt status is that it has long promised to renovate and revive the vacant building into a center for worship and public outreach.

“In any story you may write, please convey our dedication to restoring this landmark and others around the world for our parishioners and their communities,” Church of Scientology spokesperson Sonia Gobbini told the Independent in email comments provided for this article. ​“Our goal is restoration to magnificence.”

Content retrieved from: https://www.newhavenindependent.org/article/scientology_2.

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