Moratorium to Stop Clock on Historic Home Demolition

Moratorium to Stop Clock on Historic Home Demolition

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The home at 615 Wesley Avenue is considered historically significant. (Photo courtesy of estately.com)

By MADDY VITALE

Time will tell what becomes of the historic Ocean City home at 615 Wesley Ave. slated for demolition if it is not purchased.

But according to Ocean City’s Historic Preservation Commission Chairman John Loeper, the company that owns the property must provide a litany of items to the commission to meet the regulations in the city ordinance on historic homes before anything is done.

The home is in the city’s Historic District, where homes from the late 19th and early 20th centuries lines the streets. The district stretches between Third and Eighth streets and Central and Ocean avenues.

Some key things in the ordinance that the owners, a group called RJGVB LLC of Shippensburg, Pa., must provide to the commission include a property appraisal that would have to be obtained by the owner. The owner also must supply how much the property was purchased for and any offers for sale or rent and prices asked for and offers received.

“They have to make an honest effort for someone to sell it to someone to restore it,” explained Loeper. “It would be a shame to see it come down. It is a key property.”

Video courtesy of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach Realtors.

The commission denied a demolition permit in September, and the city’s Zoning Board upheld the decision.

And on Tuesday night, during a virtual commission meeting, Loeper said that he awaits word.

Loeper said he spoke with Historic Commission solicitor Mark Stein. Stein sent a letter to attorney Avery Teitler, who represents the owner, with “requests that are part of the ordinance.”

“They have not gotten an appraisal yet for the property, but at some point they will have to have the appraisal,” Loeper said.

The home, built in 1902, is in need of rehabilitation.

The commission wants the home to be saved as does Mayor Jay Gillian and other city officials who have voiced their feelings on the importance of preserving a piece of history in town.

A large purple sign displayed at the front of the four-story home warns that it has six months from Jan. 30 before it will be demolished if it is not sold.

That is, unless someone comes in and purchases the property that at one time was a bed and breakfast.

However, Loeper explained that there is a moratorium on demolition in the city from Memorial Day through Labor Day. That means when the clock runs out on the home — in July — demolition would not be possible then.

“I’m not concerned about a lot of it right now because if they push for a demolition, it will be in July, and there is a moratorium on demolition,” Loeper said. “The city is aware.”

Vice Chairman of the Commission Ken Cooper said of the support by the community to save the home, “I heard the mayor’s office got a lot of letters.”

The sign details the owner’s plans if a buyer does not come in.

Loeper responded, “They would be better off for themselves if they would comply. We have done what we are going to do and the city (officials) did what they were going to do.”

The five-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom home is on the market for $999,000 and has more than 5,250 square feet of space, according to real estate records.

In a Feb. 5 statement, Mayor Jay Gillian said he received a number of emails about the historic home in favor of saving it from demolition.

The Historic District is governed by ordinances designed to preserve the character of the neighborhoods near the Ocean City Tabernacle, where Ocean City was founded and first settled.

The historic commission’s denial of the demolition application “triggered a period where the property must be offered for sale to somebody who would want to preserve it,” Gillian said. “Our commission chair will seek the owner’s appraisals to make sure the property is being listed at fair market value. This is the procedure outlined in our ordinances.”

A view of the stairway inside the home. (Photo courtesy of estately.com)

In other matters at Tuesday’s meeting, Maryann Pionegro-Smith was introduced as a new commission member, replacing Jeff Frost, who vacated the position a while ago, Loeper said.

“She’s been sworn in and has all the paperwork related to the Historic Commission,” Loeper said. “It is nice to see another woman on the board. We are moving forward. It is a slot that has been vacant for a long time.”

Pionegro-Smith has been active in volunteering at the U.S. Life-Saving Station.

“She has done several readings at the station and voiceovers for the videos there,” Loeper noted. “She is very interested in history and is a tremendous asset to the commission.”