Strawbridge renovation discussions continue

On May 3, BHCA President Linda Rittelmann called a special Board Meeting at Strawbridge Methodist Church at the corner of Mosher St. and Park Ave. to hear a presentation by developer Ben Frederick concerning the restoration and development of the church, which have come under scrutiny in recent weeks.
The church was purchased at auction nearly four years ago by Greg Kamenetz. At BHCA’s April meeting, Frederick, the developer for the property, presented a plan which would create 11 units in the property: 8 one-bedroom loft style apartments in the church itself, 1 three-bedroom unit in the parsonage next door, a one-bedroom apartment in the basement of the parsonage, and a studio apartment in another one-story building on the property.

Belfry Theater in Strawbridge Methodist Church
The belfry theater space in the Strawbridge Methodist Church building. Photo by Kellie Wellborn.

Frederick noted that in order to accommodate 11 units, he is requesting a zoning variance of 14.5%, and indicated that he would be requesting a parking exemption from the City based on the 11 public parking spots currently adjacent to the property’s street frontage.
The Board of BHCA approved his request to offer a letter of support for the zoning variance with only one vote of dissension.
After the meeting, the residents who live nearest the church expressed concern that they were not properly informed or included in the discussions for the plans for the church. BHCA President Rittelmann called the special meeting at the church in response to these concerns.
At the conclusion of the special meeting, a motion was made to vacate the original vote supporting the zoning variance until more information could be obtained regarding parking and alternative plans for the renovation. The motion was defeated by a vote of 13-10 in favor of the original vote supporting the request for the zoning variance.
Since that time, Frederick delayed his zoning variance hearing for an additional month to allow for further discussion and input from Bolton Hill residents. Two more meetings took place in May, with much of the focus now being placed on the future of the parsonage building properties and alternative uses for them, perhaps turning the main parsonage building into a single-family dwelling, tearing down the one-story building to allow for parking, or dedicating the properties for some other use.
The debates surrounding the project, especially the neighborhood’s struggle to balance parking needs required by increasing residential density with the desire for historic preservation was the subject of a recent article in Baltimore Brew.
The project will be discussed again at the BHCA’s June meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 5. Both Steve Robertson, director of the City Parking Authority and Ben Frederick will be in attendance to provide an overview of zoned parking, parking options, and to further discuss plans for the property.
The zoning variance meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 12, 2018 by the Board of Municipal Zoning Appeals. BMZA hearings are held in Room 215 of City Hall, 100 N. Holliday Street. Please note that photo identification is required to enter the building. If you wish to put your comments in writing, you may fax (410-625-8422), mail or email comments to:

Mr. Derek Baumgardner
Executive Director
Board of Municipal & Zoning Appeals
14th Floor, 417 E. Fayette Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

If you plan to attend the BMZA hearing, please check the agenda on the day of the hearing in case the hearing schedule or agenda have been changed. You may find this information by visiting the City’s Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals website.
BHCA President Rittelmann will also submit a letter on behalf of the neighborhood to the BMZA prior to the hearing; be on the lookout for a draft to be circulated in advance.