Controversial foster-care facility is upheld, 6-0

January 15, 1995|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

The Harford County Council, acting as the Zoning Board of Appeals, has upheld a hearing examiner's decision to allow the United Methodist Board of Child Care to build a controversial $6 million foster-care facility at Harford and Reckord roads in Fallston.

The council's vote was 6-0, with council President Joanne S. Parrott abstaining, to dismiss the case filed by the Fallston Meadows Community Association.

Salvatore Glorioso, the community association president who argued the group's latest case before both Hearing Examiner William F. Casey last July and the Board of Appeals Jan. 3, sat in the front row Tuesday as the vote was cast. About 15 supportive residents filled the row of seats behind him.

When the council voted unanimously against the group without any discussion, the residents, several of whom had been holding up signs seeking the board's support, stormed out of the chamber.

Mr. Glorioso said later that the community association had expected the defeat, but members attended the meeting to show their solidarity to the elected officials, who they believed had let them down.

"It is still shocking to me that this could come to pass in a rural, residential community, without public utilities, that is known for lousy water and lousy sewage acceptance," he said.

"If it had been any other organization besides the Methodist Church making this proposal, it wouldn't have gotten this far under Harford County zoning," he said.

The community association has been battling the Board of Child Care since 1991, when plans were announced for a foster-care complex for 60 abused and neglected children on a 26-acre tract of land owned by the church.

Fallston Meadows residents, aided by the Harford County people's counsel and private attorneys, argued that the 10-building facility would overburden the rural area's schools, roads, wells and septic fields.

The residents lost the case in the state Court of Special Appeals in October 1993.

Last year, they regrouped under Mr. Glorioso's leadership to fight the facility again, this time on grounds that it did not meet the zoning code's definition of a group home.

But Mr. Casey threw out the case, ruling that the group did not have standing to sue and that the opportunity for argument about language in the county zoning law had long since passed.

Mr. Glorioso said the residents probably would appeal the latest ruling to Harford County Circuit Court and were pursuing other avenues of dissent as well.

"We're not finished. We're not going to roll over and play dead. There are other opportunities for us to sue the Board of Child Care based on the zoning code," he said.

In other action Tuesday, the council approved $9,940 in property tax credits for the owners of 11 homes near the county's Scarboro landfill. The credits are the result of a December 1992 law that allows tax credits up to 100 percent on owner-occupied properties built before June 30, 1988, and within 500 feet of a landfill.

Larry Klimovitz, county director of administration, said that 15 property owners were notified in October that they might qualify for the credits, which are awarded annually for the tax year beginning July 1.

Those who met the qualifications for credits live in the 3200 and 3300 blocks of Scarboro Road and the 3000 and 3100 blocks of Sandy Hook Road.

The council also received a request from the Active Citizens' Coalition for the Employment of Persons With Mental Illness to endorse the group's efforts to find jobs for the mentally disabled in Harford County.

Lanie Skittle-Watson, director of occupational therapy at Fallston General Hospital and a group member, also asked the council to appoint a liaison to the group and to make vocational assistance a priority of Harford's Core Service Agency, which oversees mental health services in the county.

Members of the grass-roots group represent about 20 different organizations involved in mental health. They train employers to work with the mentally challenged and find the right "niche" for potential employees.

"There are many people out there who want to work and are able to work, but there is not a place where I can refer them," Ms. Skittle-Watson said.

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