Charity Begins at (Or Next To) Home HOWARD COUNTY

August 24, 1993

Charity begins at home. It's an old cliche, but it's offered as a plea to the residents of the tiny western Howard County community of Daisy and their attempts to stop a local church from providing a retreat for caregivers of the terminally ill.

A handful of residents fear plans for a retreat by the backers of Terrific Inc., which stands for Temporary Emergency Residential Resource Institute for Families in Crisis. The 32-acre parcel would be a place of respite for about eight people at a time so they could take a break from the stress of providing long-term care for critically ill family members. The property shares a common driveway with a few of the disgruntled residents. One resident, Frances Kohl, claims the property is too close to her home for such an activity.

The opposition wants to block the supporters of the retreat, who include the pastor of the Daisy United Methodist Church, from being granted a special zoning exception that would allow them to proceed. The residents' principal argument is that the retreat represents a commercial enterprise that should not be allowed in a rural conservation area. They go on to question the fact that the retreat property is owned by the Dallas-based Mountain States Pecan Corp. The residents fear it will eventually use the property for corporate meetings or as a corporate headquarters.

These fears amount to little more than speculation. Zoning regulations would not allow development of the property, which is in the county's farmland preservation program. The Rev. Debbie Tate, pastor of the Methodist church, describes the Texas company as a "benevolent, private donor." She plans to live on the property and run the retreat.

Those opposing the retreat must also realize that the other special exceptions that zoning would allow on the property -- besides a retreat -- include a riding academy, a farm supply store, private campgrounds or a parking lot for school buses. The residents should count themselves lucky; any of these uses would be more intrusive than a retreat.

While Ms. Tate alleges that residents want to stop the project because some of those on the retreat will be the caregivers of AIDS patients, we won't assume to read the minds of residents. We only ask that they search their consciences, if not the zoning regulations.

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