The Glen Burnie Korean Presbyterian Church's wants to tear down its chapel and replace it with one nearly twice as big so members can worship and study in one room.
But the 260-member church is in a historic district where demolition is allowed only if the Anne Arundel County Health Department finds that the building is a public health or safety hazard, according to the county building code. These rules have taken the congregation by surprise.
"We did not know that the Glen Burnie area is a historical area when we bought it," said Hong Chul Pak, 39, deacon and church treasurer.
The church could put an addition onto the chapel instead of tearing down the building, said Donna M. Ware, the county historic sites planner.
The church's architect, Chung W. Oh of Philadelphia, said the church might change its plans and renovate the small chapel, and tear down a nearby pastor's office and the parsonage. The space created by that demolition would give the church enough room to build a new building and attach it to the chapel. This would add about $200,000 to the original renovation costs, Mr. Oh said.
William Kuethe, a prominent early citizen of Glen Burnie, built the turn-of-the-century chapel in 1908, then donated it to the St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church. The congregation added other buildings in the 1930s and 1950s. The church building has changed hands several times over the years.
The chapel is considered of historic value because it is a good example of a small Colonial Revival church. It still has the original Flemish bond brick work, gable roof with flared eaves, Gothic-style windows and doors, said Ms. Ware.
The church, which sits in the 100 block of Third Avenue, is divided into three buildings: the small chapel; the main service building, which is about 60 years old; and the parsonage.
The chapel is used for early morning services and choir practice. The main building is used for daytime services and Bible study. One by one, each building needs to be remodeled.
The drafty chapel and main service building account for high utility costs, about $3,000 a month in winter heating bills. None of the three buildings has air conditioning, said Mr. Pak.
After worshiping seven years at Harundale Presbyterian Church, the Korean congregation bought its present building from the Mormon Church and moved in May 1988, said the pastor, the Rev. Chang Eun Chung, 49.
The church's architect, Mr. Oh, applied for a building permit last July, and for a grading permit in August. Three months later the county told Mr. Oh the church was in a historic district. Consequently, no permits have not been issued.
The county has told the church officials the chapel could be demolished if the church can prove it is being denied full economic use of the land. Church members have not yet responded, Ms. Ware said.
The church's original plans called for remodeling the chapel and excavating part of the basement. This was expected to cost about $420,000. Other expenses, such as professional fees and putting a bathroom and kitchen in the main service building, were expected to add $100,000 to the bill, Mr. Oh said.
So far, the congregation has raised about $100,000 since 1992. Church members had hoped the work would be completed by July to celebrate the church's 14th anniversary, said Mr. Chung and Mr. Pak.
The county has tried to help the church find funding or banks that might offer low-interest loans. Church officials said they have contacted one of the banks and are waiting for a decision from it.