Hearing on nonprofits gets heated Limit on agencies proposed in corridor

April 02, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

In the last month or so, Kimberly Pforr of Pasadena and her two children were without a home until the Light House shelter in Annapolis took them in and helped her apply for jobs.

Now, business owners and community leaders in the Inner West Street corridor are asking that no new agencies such as the Light House be allowed to move into the area.

Ms. Pforr, 24, and her 8-month-old son attended an Annapolis City Council hearing last night at which she tearfully shared her story of homelessness and tried to convince council members to oppose a plan to revitalize the corridor that stretches from Taylor Avenue to Church Circle.

The plan includes the ban on nonprofit agencies.

"Getting back on my feet, finally," Ms. Pforr told the council. "I would have lost my two children if it weren't for the shelter's help, and I couldn't do it without them."

Also at the hearing, which became heated at times, community and business leaders voiced their feelings about the plan.

Advocates argued that agencies such as homeless shelters would scare away potential businesses and developers and slow the street's rebirth as an area of upscale restaurants and retail outlets.

Opponents said it would be a "tragic mistake" to place a ban on new homeless shelters and urged the support of an amendment that would allow nonprofit agencies as a conditional use, which would require hearings before permits would be issued.

The issue, which attracted well over 50 people from the community, had tempers flaring as soon as the hearing started at 7 p.m. because Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins -- in order to speed up the testimony process -- at first refused to allow questions from aldermen.

After Mr. Hopkins relented, Alderman Samuel Gilmer posed scathing questions to members of a committee made up of community and business leaders who recommended the ban on nonprofits.

"What makes you think that if we adopt this plan, a thrust of developers will rush into this city?" said Mr. Gilmer, a 3rd Ward Democrat.

"Regardless of what you put there, if a developer has the money and wants to develop, he will do it," said Mr. Gilmer.

David A. Simison, an Annapolis resident and member of the committee, said he was not suggesting that nonprofits be completely banned from the area but that no more be allowed to move in.

"The city is pumping a lot of money into the revitalization plans for the street," Mr. Finison said.

"Don't throw all that away."

Lauren M. Skinner, a resident of the Presidents Hill area, spoke about the "ghettoization of social services" and cited crime in the neighborhood that she linked to the presence of homeless shelters.

"The local neighborhoods have reached a saturation point," she said. "This concentration of social services facilities is not just bad planning, it's bad social practice... . One need only take a walk through this area to experience the negative impact such services have had on the environment. Our only hope for developing a safe and healthy environment for our children is by placing a moratorium on future expansion of philanthropic development."

Pub Date: 4/02/96

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