'Birds of Maryland' lecture planned at wildlife center Maryland City fights and wins: U.S. gives 35 acres to county for a park WEST COUNTY/Crofton Odenton Fort Meade Gambrills

June 01, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Land in Maryland City that was once earmarked for a 300-unit homeless shelter will have a new life as a county park.

In a dedication ceremony last week, the federal government gave the 35 acres to Anne Arundel, avoiding what could have been a costly lawsuit filed by Maryland City officials against a nonprofit group from Alexandria, Va.

"We're ecstatic," said Ray Smallwood, president of the Maryland City Civic Association, a vocal opponent of the shelter proposal.

The Home Builders Association of Maryland and Creative Housing Solutions Inc., a nonprofit group, secured an option on the land in 1989.

When the group announced plans to build 300 units of shelter housing for 900 homeless people, Maryland City, a small community west of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, erupted.

1% Residents, who live near 10 state

and federal prisons, said their community of about 10,000 had absorbed enough of society's problems.

In June 1989, more than 200 people protested the proposals, saying the shelter would be too close to the Brock Bridge Elementary School.

The nonprofit group attempted to scale back the project to house 150 women and children, but opposition remained intense.

Mr. Smallwood said negotiations went back and forth for several years. As late as October, he said, company officials came to him and tried to revive the issue.

"They asked what size building they could build, and I said absolutely none," he said.

The association, he said, had hired a lawyer and was ready to fight the company in court.

"It was a bad location, a bad idea, and we have no need for that sized facility," he said.

Last year, Steny H. Hoyer, the Democratic congressman from the 5th District, sponsored a bill that ordered the Department of Housing and Urban Development to give the 35 acres to Anne Arundel County, once the nonprofit group's option ran out.

That happened in April, and the land was turned over last week.

Mr. Smallwood said he is unsure what, if anything, will be built on the tract, which had been a part of Fort Meade in the 1950s.

The land is mostly woods, crisscrossed by a network of trails. But, he says, there may be room to build some much-needed ball fields.

"If it stays the way it is, I don't care," said Mr. Smallwood. "If nothing else, it's peace of mind."

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