The Request Is Part Of A Larger Redevelopment Plan Involving The ChurchBy CBS Baltimore Staff

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Baltimore Planning Commission has signed off on a plan that would split a historic church and adjacent home into two separate properties.

In a 5-2 vote Thursday afternoon with one recusal, the planning commission approved splitting the parcel home to the Mt. Vernon Place United Methodist Church and the Asbury House into two separate lots. The move is part of a larger effort by a developer to restore the church, which has been plagued by decades of deferred maintenance.

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A representative from Colbert Matz Rosenfelt, the firm representing the developer, Joe Novoseller, said splitting the property would allow the Asbury House to be sold, though a new owner has not been found.

The Mt. Vernon Place United Methodist Church (center) and Asbury House (right) on October 22, 2020. Credit: Logan Reigstad/WJZ

The buildings are currently owned by the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, which said a number of maintenance projects have been deferred over the past 30 years due to financial strain. One of the major projects would be to fix a leaky roof, which they said would be a multi-million dollar undertaking.

Declining numbers of worshippers have added to financial woes, the conference said, pointing out that while the church can hold between 350 and 400 people, its numbers have fallen into the dozens.

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The conference has been trying to sell the property for four years and has taken part in a number of discussions with the nearby Peabody Institute and Johns Hopkins University. Neither expressed a desire to buy the property, a conference representative said Thursday.

So far, Novoseller said he does not have concrete plans of what to do with the church building but plans to maintain it in the interim.

City officials said they have received dozens of messages expressing concern or opposition to the larger proposal, mainly centered on issues with setbacks, parking and the lack of clarity about potential uses.

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The church, which opened in 1872, and the Asbury House are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

CBS Baltimore Staff