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.
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.
- 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.