A chief opponent of a church agency's proposal to build a foster care complex in Fallston for abused young children has testified that hefears visiting parents could become violent, posing a danger to arearesidents.
"I'm concerned about the parents, or so-called parents, and not knowing what they'll do. I'd like to have us not re-create the same incident we had in Texas last week," Salvatore J. Glorioso said Monday at a zoning hearing on the proposal. His home is across the street from the site of the proposed $5 million complex.
Glorioso was referring to the mass shooting in Killeen, Texas, inwhich 23 people were killed and 25 others were wounded when George Hennard opened fire on a lunchtime crowd with two semiautomatic pistols.
During his hourlong testimony at the zoning hearing, Glorioso said, "Any person who's deranged enough to abuse or neglect a child, what guarantee of security do I have about what they'll do? Here someone's taken away their child."
He was one of two opponents who raised the issue of community safety during a packed, three-hour hearing on the proposal by the United Methodist Board of Child Care, a non-profit group. The agency wants to build a facility to house up to 60 abused children, aged 2 to 12, at Harford and Reckord roads. It operates a similar home for teens on Gaither Road in Randallstown.
Jim Martinek, whose property adjoins the site, testified that he shared concerns about safety. He testified he wanted the Board of Child Care toprovide security patrols if the project is approved.
Michael Leaf, a Bel Air lawyer representing the board, then asked Martinek, "Do you have someone patrolling the neighborhood to see where your children and your neighbors' children are at night?"
"I know where my kids are and so do my neighbors," Martinek replied.
About 180 people sat quietly in the stifling, overheated County Council chambers, listening to the 3 1/2 hours of testimony.
Four opponents testified that their main concern was whether the project would have an effect ontheir water wells, while another opponent, Paula Webb, a secretary at William S. James Elementary School said she was worried the projectwould further overcrowd Youth's Benefit Elementary School
All homes in the area depend on wells and have private septic systems. Opponents testified that they fear the complex would require so much waterit would endanger the water supply to private wells.
The agency has obtained a state permit to draw up to 6,500 gallons of water dailyfrom underground aquifers. Hydrogeologists hired by the Board of Child Care testified at a previous zoning hearing that such use would not adversely affect wells in the area.
In response to questioning from People's Counsel Robert F. Kahoe Jr., who is representing neighbors objecting to the proposal, Glorioso also testified that he was concerned about how the church agency would handle incidents in which children "escaped" from the foster complex.
Claude Libis, executive director of the Board of Child Care, testified at a previous hearing that in some cases parents would be permitted to visit children at the complex, or take them home for weekends or overnight stays.
Children cared for at the proposed Fallston complex would generally be removed from homes through court order due to physical, sexual or emotional abuse by parents or guardians, Board of Child Care administrators have testified. The children would be given counseling and a daily routine that included attending school.
The agency is seeking a zoning exception because the property is zoned for agricultural use.
A fifth zoning hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. at the County Council chambers, Level A, of the Courthouse in Bel Air.