Stacking of Bates panel alleged

December 23, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

A partner in a plan to develop the former Wiley H. Bates High School as a community and senior center charged last night that the new Bates Advisory Committee has been stacked in favor of building a conference center on the 16-acre campus.

Jean Creek, head of the nonprofit Bates Foundation, charged that a group of activists known as the Black Political Forum has control of the committee. She said she believes that nine of the panel's 17 members -- all appointed by County Executive Robert R. Neall -- are members of that organization.

The advisory committee, which met for the first time last night, was formed by Mr. Neall after the City Council rejected a portion of the Bates Foundation's development plan, which included rental apartments for seniors and space for community activities.

The council rejected rezoning the property so that a private developer, who was to finance part of the community center, could build townhouses on the former school's recreation fields.

Ms. Creek said the Bates Foundation wants to move ahead with its community center plan without the developer.

"It appears that the Black Political Forum wants Bates to be considered for the conference center," said Ms. Creek, who also is president of the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "But if you called a countywide meeting of the community, you'd find they want something quite different."

As Ms. Creek expressed her objections about the makeup of the panel, other members expressed exasperation. Several members said they were eager to move forward with some kind of plan before the school, which has been closed since 1981, deteriorates any further.

"I'm a member of the NAACP, too," said Yevola Peters, one of the people singled out as members of the Black Political Forum. "Can we please move on?"

Cheryl Banks, president of the Black Political Forum, said after the meeting that the forum has only two members on the advisory panel -- its official representative, Leslie Stanton, and 11 Ms. Peters, former head of the Community Action Agency, which participated in the development of the Bates Foundation plan.

Ms. Banks said her organization has not taken a position on a conference center at Bates.

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