Churches in the ValleysAs an active participant in the...


September 03, 1994

Churches in the Valleys

As an active participant in the attempt to get churches to be responsible developers, I was neither surprised nor pleased to see the self-serving and inaccurate description in Edward J. Veilleux's letter, Aug. 16, about churches and zoning in Baltimore County.

While it is true that churches may be permitted where other building is not, it is absolutely false that most people "are neither surprised nor bothered by this."

Most people are both surprised and bothered to learn that churches can be built in rural zones without limit as to size.

The Catholic church that Mr. Veilleux represents will be, if built, nearly 19,000 square feet and seat 650. Mr. Veilleux doesn't bother to say that most protesters testified that they would not object to a church in the 300-seat range.

In fact, the primary objections to his project are to its size, visual impact on the countryside and traffic congestion on a two-lane country road.

Of those nearby residents polled about the facility, an overwhelming majority were opposed.

Mr. Veilleux's assertion that "they have won every argument on every level" is ridiculous. His complaint of spending money on attorneys to defend their rights conveniently ignores the sums we spent defending our rights.

His comments on the St. Mary's situation displays an ignorance of, or unwillingness to admit, the facts. Here's a brief chronology:

1. St. Mary's received a special exception for a church around 1984.

2. The congregation built a totally different building, not approved by the county.

3. The church rented its facility, which contained a non-approved commercial kitchen, to a commercial caterer. Zoning enforcement stopped this.

4. The congregation began building the courtyard in spite of a Baltimore County injunction against further construction.

5. The congregation applied for a special hearing to:

A. Have over-sized, lighted signs for the church and day care center (which is automatically allowed for churches, even if as here it is run by an outside organization).

B. Seek approval of the 2,500-square foot courtyard with the 12-foot high walls around it. The protesters believe that this looks to a passer-by like another building, and not what the average person thinks of as a courtyard.

6. The zoning commissioner ruled that the original building was illegal and that the requested changes would not be permitted.

7. At no time did the objectors request the existing structure be torn down.

Mr. Veilleux's comments on this case are substantially incorrect and prejudicial:

1. No one "admitted that although they have no objection to this proposal, they will contest it unless St. Mary's agrees never to build a church." There are serious objections.

2. No one, "while tacitly admitting that they have no hope of winning their case on legal merits," is trying to impose his will by bankrupting this small parish with endless legal bills.

As a matter of fact, we won the case on the legal merits. It could be argued that, in appealing, the church is attempting to financially wear out the objectors.

3. His comment that "they claim that their only concern is the stress on well water and septic fields," is untrue.

4. His comments about "the conversion of a nearby historical building into a restaurant" is an attempt to show what hypocrites "they" are.

The conversion of the county-owned building happened years ago. The current zoning effort by Baltimore County (the developer) is to permit use of the property for a restaurant. It is irrelevant to the church cases.

5. His comments about "a development of 20 new homes" ignores that there was nothing to protest.

The zoning was in place. "We" only want to try to keep people and churches from doing new damage to the zoning environment.

6. Mr. Veilleux seems to be upset that we object to every zoning issue, at the same time he criticizes us for objecting to any.

He and others supporting these church efforts attempt to vilify their opponents by implying some vague anti-religious sentiments and by suggesting it is only a small group of people trying to impose their will on the majority.

The truth is that he is a member of the small minority trying to impose its will on the majority of area residents who aren't comfortable with these projects, but don't want to offend friends or neighbors, or seem in some way "anti-religion."

Jeffrey Foreman

Hunt Valley

Protecting Children at School Bus Stops

Over 70,000 children are transported by Baltimore County school buses every school day. Baltimore County Public Schools Department of Transportation went to great lengths last year to protect the crossing policy of its school buses.

The policy holds that children be waiting at their bus stops before the bus arrives for pick-up, and upon exiting the children should wait until the bus has pulled away before crossing behind the bus.

The policy is designed to allow children to see oncoming motorists and vice-versa, without the school bus blocking their vision.

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