OC Church Damaged By Fire Working On Redevelopment Plan; City Council Grants Temporary Fence Request

OC Church Damaged By Fire Working On Redevelopment Plan; City Council Grants Temporary Fence Request
OC Church

OCEAN CITY – A year and half after a devastating fire at St. Paul’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church downtown, redevelopment is in the works.

Tom Shuster of St. Paul’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church Reconstruction Team came before the Mayor and City Council on Tuesday afternoon requesting approval of a temporary fence to be located within the Baltimore Avenue right-of-way to secure the portion of church property where the rectory stood and to prevent people from trespassing.

According to Shuster, who retired last year as the city’s recreation and parks director, the vinyl clad, picket style fence would be constructed to conform to the Upper Downtown Design Guidelines and would be in place for a period of 24 months while construction is taking place.

“You will recall St. Paul’s by-the-Sea suffered a devastating fire on November 26, 2013 that claimed the lives of two people and destroyed and damaged our church buildings. Since that fire, our church family has worked tirelessly to reclaim our buildings and heal our community of faith,” Shuster said. “We have made some difficult decisions since the fire including the move to demolish our rectory buildings where the fire started. Now that the rectory is gone and much of the remaining buildings have been restored, we hope to move forward with a plan to rebuild on the north side of our property.”

St. Paul’s by-the-Sea is currently working with Becker Morgan architects on a plan of construction, resulting in the request of a variance for the temporary fence to secure the portion of the property where the rectory stood.

“The temporary fence also would enhance the aesthetics of the property and present a more pleasing image for the public using Baltimore Avenue,” Shuster said. “The fence would be removed when we proceed with the new construction on the north side of the church property.”

The proposed L-shaped fence would run south for approximately 32 feet from the northern property line at Baltimore Avenue and then move east for 32 feet to the church building foundation.

OCDC Executive Director Glenn Irwin submitted the OCDC Board voted to support St. Paul’s by-the-Sea’s variance request.

“Being familiar with the project, I understand the practical need for that fence and aesthetically it will make it a much more pleasing project, and it is a temporary fence,” Councilman Doug Cymek said, as he made a motion to approve.

The council voted unanimously to approve the variance request.

“On behalf of all the members of St. Paul’s-by-the-Sea and of all the people in this community who have supported us in the last year and half, we greatly appreciate your support and understand that we are committed to this community and hope to bring our church property back to its fullest potential in the future,” Shuster said.

He furthered the church is currently working with Becker Morgan on a plan to be brought before St. Paul’s by-the-Sea membership for approval. Once the plan is approved, a site plan will be submitted and the church will apply for a permit to proceed with construction.

“That is good news for the community, as well as your church,” Mayor Rick Meehan said.

The mayor suggested widening the sidewalks along Baltimore Avenue in moving forward to help enhance pedestrian safety in that area, as was done to City Hall across the street, to which Shuster obliged.

On the morning of Nov. 26, 2013, emergency crews responded to the St. Paul’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church for a reported active fire. Upon arrival, firefighters discovered the church’s rectory was ablaze and immediately realized there were rescues to be made.

The fire was quickly brought under control, but not before John Raymond Sterner, 56, died after walking into the Shepherd’s Crook on fire. Later investigation found Sterner purchased gasoline at a nearby gas station at the foot of the Route 50 Bridge, walked several blocks on Baltimore Avenue, doused himself in the fuel, set himself on fire and walked into the Shepherd’s Crook.

During a search of the second floor of the structure, firefighters discovered the church’s pastor, Rev. David Dingwall, was unconscious. He was removed and later succumbed to his injuries at Atlantic General Hospital.

Injured in the fire was Dana Truitt, who was volunteering at the Shepherd’s Crook that morning. Truitt recovered from her major injuries after a considerable stint at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.