Neighborhood meeting called for Town Pines

February 20, 1994|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Sun Staff Writer

It's 11 a.m. Thursday. Kevin Simpson glances out of the window of his rowhouse on Town Pines Court in Annapolis and bolts out of the door.

"Hey, you guys can just take that someplace else," he yells at the driver of a Honda who has stopped to talk to a man who walked up from the small alley alongside the rowhouses.

"Well, I didn't actually see it," he said, "but the guy in the car was probably buying drugs. I'm tired of this. It goes on several times a day."

Drug trafficking is just one of the problems that confront the tiny community between Clay and West Washington streets. There is no homeowners association to pay for snow removal, street lights in the parking lot or landscaping. Abandoned furniture and trash lie inyards and on the street.

Mr. Simpson, the son of an Annapolis police officer, wants to clean up the neighborhood. He has scheduled a meeting at the First Baptist Church tomorrow night that he hopes will lead to the formation of a homeowner association.

"I can't do this by myself," said Mr. Simpson, who has lived in the neighborhood for three years.

"If it's just me, it won't work. If it's just me and one other person, it won't work," he said. "It has to be the whole community."

Town Pines Court, originally called Martin Luther King Village, was built in the late 1960s as part of the city's urban renewal plan.

Developer and architect Roger Crawford built the two- and three-bedroom homes for families forced to move when the surrounding blackcommunity was redesigned.

But by the time the project was completed, most of the families had been relocated to Robinwood or Newtowne 20, Mr. Crawford said, leaving him to find other tenants.

"We were stuck," Mr. Crawford said. "It was a horror story for us."

Mr. Crawford kept seven of the 22 homes and rents them out. The rest he sold. Ten are owner-occupied; five are rented by other landlords.

Shortly after the homes were built, Mr. Crawford started a homeowner association and began to pay taxes for upkeep, trash and snow removal.

"I never wanted to own in the first place," he said. "We took this on as a project that was worthwhile, to help people. I was very disillusioned."

In the 1970s, the name was changed to Town Pines as a marketing strategy to show the community was not for blacks only, Alderman Carl O. Snowden recalled.

But when some of the first-time homeowners moved out, the low-cost housing was an ideal buy for investors, said Kathleen Koch, director of the Arundel Community Development Corp.

"It's the same old thing," she said. "This is what happens when you have a mom-and-pop operation that buys up a few of [the houses].

"There is no strong management company running the place, doing background checks, making sure people pay the rent and enforcing the rules."

Mr. Crawford said he worked to keep the housing association afloat but could not afford to pay all the fees for upkeep of the common areas.

"It was just me paying the bills," he said. "I tried to make it work, but it just did not work out."

Mr. Crawford said that he has offered to sell his units to the city Housing Authority twice but that officials have not seemed interested.

"It's not a crime to be poor," he said of the residents. "There are a lot of law-abiding people who live there who have it tough."

Like Mr. Simpson, he says he can not fix the problems in the community by himself.

"I looked at it as an opportunity to make a contribution," he said of his role in building the homes. "And it backfired. If there is any way to help, I'd be delighted."

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