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Condo Plans for Vacant Ardmore Church Back In Play

Developer Wally Smerconish presents his plans for First Baptist Church of Ardmore to the Zoning Hearing Board in March.

A recent change in Lower Merion's zoning law means plans for a vacant Ardmore church are back on the table, despite previously being denied.

Condominium Units Could Be Coming

Wally Smerconish, the owner of First Baptist Church of Ardmore, plans to convert the recently closed church and its parsonage into five condominium units. He will present before the Lower Merion Zoning Hearing Board on March 7.

Smerconish presented the same plans to the Zoning Hearing Board in May but had his plans denied because at that time, multi-family housing in an R-4 zoning district was not permissible—and Smerconish, the board ruled, did not meet the adequate "burden of proof" for a use variance.

However, under Lower Merion's new church/club conversion ordinance, the developer of a former church/club can apply to the Zoning Hearing Board for conditional use, which has a much lower burden of proof than a variance and is therefore easier for a developer to obtain, said Lower Merion Building and Planning Director Bob Duncan.

The Technicalities

There are still some catches, however: to be granted a conditional use, the building must also be designated a Class 1 or Class 2 Historic Property, Duncan said.

Developers also "must enter into a covenant that guarantees preservation of the building," Duncan said. Such a restriction prevents developers from demolishing the building, and that prohibition runs with the land—even if a developer sells it.

See Also:

  • First Baptist Church Still on Market (Nov. 16, 2012)
  • First Baptist Church Developer 'Considering All Options' For Building (Aug. 14, 2012)
  • First Baptist Church Developer Applies For Demolition Permit (July 6, 2012)
  • Condo Plans Denied for Ardmore's First Baptist Church (June 21, 2012)
  • Developer Details Condo Plans for First Baptist Church (May 18, 2012)
  • Karate Studio or Condos? First Baptist Church Plans Discussed (May 3, 2012)
  • (Jan. 5, 2012)

The Lower Merion Zoning Hearing Board meets at 7:15 p.m. on March 7 in the township building's second floor board room (75 E Lancaster Ave, Ardmore). View the agenda.

First Baptist Church closed in summer because its dwindling congregation could not support the costs of building upkeep.

Lynne Meade February 23, 2013 at 02:52 PM
As a resident of this neighborhood I'm tired of constant construction and condos being built seemingly everywhere they can squeeze one in.This area is over saturated as it is.
Josh February 23, 2013 at 04:53 PM
But Lynne, this increases our tax base and property values. Oh, that's right, if you are in a condo or apt one can go to LM schools for free, or has that changed? It should!
Richard Weisgrau February 23, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Everyone who lives in LM is paying real estate and school taxes either directly as a property owner or indirectly as a tenant who pays rent from which a landlord takes a portion for taxes. No one is getting a free ride in LM. As for an increase in property values, I'll take one any time because the increase in taxes are far outweighed by the increased investment value of the property.
Josh February 24, 2013 at 03:46 PM
Thanks for that information Richard, I don't know how that process works in LM. Someone else posted a comment about get daughter with issues, and now it is gone. To respond- I too am about a four decade resident ( I lived in CA for about 6/7 years). No, of course I would not deny your child education. Will you write me a check for having to subsidize the cheaters of our townships tax codes? Please don't assume I am an a** my neighbor- I am far from it. We all face troubles in our lives.
Josh February 24, 2013 at 04:05 PM
Reject Josh 10:46 am on Sunday, February 24, 2013 Thanks for that information Richard, I don't know how that process works in LM. Someone else posted a comment about her daughter with special issues, and now it is gone. To respond- I too am about a four decade resident ( I lived in CA for about 6/7 years). No, of course I would not deny your child education. Will you write me a check for having to subsidize the cheaters of our townships tax codes? I too have a family in LM and can play the been here longer than you fools game. Please don't assume I am an a** my neighbor- I am far from it. We all face troubles in our lives.

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