Minister pleas for retreat Residents oppose special exception

October 01, 1993|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff Writer

The Methodist minister seeking to build a retreat center in Daisy for people who care for the terminally ill last night made a final plea for her project in the face of overwhelming neighborhood opposition.

The Rev. Debbie Tate, president of Terrific Inc. and pastor of Daisy United Methodist Church, admitted to the Howard County Board of Appeals that the group had told neighbors of more extensive plans for the site in May. That contradicted her earlier testimony, which was brought up by several neighbors who testified against the proposal.

About 72 people attended the third and final hearing in the George Howard county office building on a petition by the Washington-based Terrific Inc. for a special exception to build a retreat center on a 32-acre parcel on Ed Warfield Road.

The board set a Nov. 2 work session to consider the petition.

Terrific -- Temporary Emergency Residential Resource Institute for Families in Crisis -- is a private, nonprofit group that provides housing and services for terminally ill inner-city children, the elderly and the disabled.

The retreat center would be called the Francois Xavier Bagnoud Farm after the late son of the woman who donated the Warfield Road property to Terrific.

According to its annual report, Terrific originally intended the center as place to "replenish the minds, bodies and souls of the sick, their families and their caretakers."

But Ms. Tate said that was only a proposal and the center "was not, is not and never will be a hospice for sick children." She also said that the group did not plan to take children on field trips to the farm.

When she testified at a Sept. 14 hearing, Ms. Tate denied telling neighbors of those plans. But last night, she admitted that she told them that a training center was planned for the site. She said that those plans were scrapped before the case went to the board.

The county Department of Planning and Zoning recommended approval of the center, with restrictions that included limiting the length of retreats to eight days and the number of participants to eight.

One of the final opposition witnesses last night was Cindy Dunigan, who raises about eight thoroughbred horses at a time on her 11.5-acre property next to Terrific's.

Ms. Dunigan said she was concerned that visitors to the site would feed her horses something harmful, or that the visitors would be bitten or kicked by the animals.

She said that she would have to pay thousands of dollars in additional insurance premiums to cover injuries to visitors or to her horses.

Another opponent, neighbor Ron Reis, said he investigated properties that Terrific's attorney, Vincent Guida, used to show that the value of properties next to such retreat centers have not declined.

Opponents have maintained that Terrific's proposal would lower their property values and bring "strangers" into their neighborhood.

In one example, Mr. Reis showed that a comparison property that was supposed to be next to a Montgomery County retreat center was actually five miles away.

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