CHAP votes to implement restrictions despite concerns

Baltimore’s Commision for Historical & Architectural Preservation voted to add The Senator Theatre to their new Interior-Landmark and Special Lists-Interior designations despite testimony brought by current theatre owner Tom Kiefaber, Gayle Grove (now unemployed, long time theatre staff member), Laura Perkins (neighborhood resident, dedicated theatre volunteer & advocate) and Tom Harris (long time patron, theatre volunteer & advocate).

Among their reasons why the vote should not take place or should at least postponed were:

  • The action scuttled negotiations with not one, but two interested parties. Negotiations that could have resulted in saving the theatre without the city spending $1 million of taxpayers money.
    Once the intention to impose these new, untested restrictions on the interior spaces were posted said negotiations evaporated within 24 hours.
    Mr. Kiefaber related that a similar situation resulted in 2007 when CHAP announced its intentions to extend controls on the theatre.
  • The commission was warned that acting on these measures, when a new owner/operator is still needed, will greatly reduce the number of interested buyers.
    There was no answer as to why they could not take a “wait & see” position and discuss building change intentions with the new owner. Since CHAP appears to wield the power to initiate these policies without the consent of the owner, it could be handled at that time, if necessary.
  • Why is The Senator Theatre is the only building in the city targeted for the “Interior-Special List”?
  • Lack of logic on the part of CHAP (given the points above), it was suggested that perhaps there are ulterior motives behind the process.
    Also suggested was that commissioner Embry’s presence as a voting member of CHAP represented a “conflict of interest” given that he was president of the Abell Foundation at a time when that group sought to foreclose on the theatre and that he also has connection to an unnamed Baltimore developer who has also expressed interest in owning the property.
    NOTE: Mr. Embry chose to obstain when the time came to vote on both proposals.
  • CHAP would not need such actions had the city had instead aided Mr. Kiefaber’s desire to transition the ownership to a community-based non-profit. A group that would have had a core interest in preservation of the theatre.
  • Under the new restrictions, changes beyond simple maintenance would require the owner to prepare an application with CHAP, who could take up to 6 months in which to render a decision.
    NOTE: Commissioner Kotarba responded that applications are reviewed promptly, but if “disapproved”, the Housing Commissioner postones issuing permits for the project for 6 months.

Johns Hopkins of Baltimore Heritage, Inc. was the only one to testify to supporting the actions.

CHAP’s approval, however, does not make the restrictions law.
If not appealed, the proposals also have to be approved by the Housing Commissioner and passed by the Baltimore City Council.

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  1. […] to rule in favor of placing strict restrictions upon most of the theatre’s interior spaces (even in the face of testimony exposing how such proposals have had negative affects on attempts to s…), Baltimore City’s Board of Estimates approved the nearly $1 million needed to purchase the […]

  2. […] thought the CHAP designation was unnecessary and ill […]


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