Housing plan angers community Linthicum residents fear homes are slated for poor families

ACLU response: 'Hysteria'

Association leaders urge neighbors not to jump to conclusions

June 14, 1996|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

Apparent rumors that 10 houses proposed for a Linthicum neighborhood would be designated for poor Baltimore families have ignited a debate tinged with racial and class overtones and threats of a boycott of the developer.

Members of the Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association Wednesday night railed against plans by Joseph Kirkpatrick to build the homes on 4.95 acres off Benton Avenue between Linthicum Oaks and Shipley-Linthicum Shopping Center, which he also owns.

This month's issue of the Linthicum Improvement Association newsletter, The Monitor, criticizes subsidized housing as "federal handouts."

However, the site has not been selected for any federal or local program, say county officials and lawyers involved in local housing issues.

Kirkpatrick submitted his plans for Shipley Oaks to the county in 1994. The project is in the review process.

The Linthicum-Shipley association had hoped to meet with Kirkpatrick Wednesday night to get a more detailed description of his project. But when Kirkpatrick, who was invited a month ago by association President Gerald Starr, failed to appear, residents became suspicious.

A man who identified himself only as Mario said, "Inner-city project welfare residents are going to come to Linthicum, and overnight they are going to increase crime, sell drugs and bring unwed mothers and our kids are going to have to deal with this." After the meeting, he refused to give his last name.

Joyce McKaine, 79, who has lived in Linthicum 10 years, echoed the sentiments of many of the approximately 50 residents at the meeting.

"Most of us picked Linthicum because of what it was, a small, quiet community," she said. "If we wanted to live in Baltimore or Glen Burnie, we would have bought there. And now they're trying to take it away from us."

Several members urged the association to send a letter to Kirkpatrick, threatening to boycott merchants at the shopping center if he did not address their concerns.

Kirkpatrick did not return repeated calls yesterday.

Residents said they did not want as neighbors participants in Moving to Opportunity, a federal program using Section 8 rent subsidies to move 285 poor families from inner-city neighborhoods to more prosperous areas.

Associa-tion officers attempted to calm residents, saying they doubted poor people could afford to move into a community where homes cost six figures and urging them not to jump to conclusions.

"You cannot assume the Shipley Oaks community is going to be part of the [Moving to Opportunity] program. They are two separate issues," said Susan March, the association's acting secretary and vice president.

Vanessa Carter of the county's Office of Human Services agreed that residents were assuming too much.

"The idea that someone would build new units in Linthicum to rent, not to sell, doesn't make common sense," said Carter. "I think that would be foolhardy for any businessman to do."

Residents also expressed fears that Shipley Oaks would be one of the sites selected to help settle the $400 million racial-discrimination suit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against the Baltimore Housing Authority. The settlement would shift 1,342 families from inner-city public housing to better neighborhoods in Baltimore and five surrounding counties.

Barbara Samuels, an ACLU lawyer, said yesterday that she had never heard of Kirkpatrick's project and that residents' fears were "totally unfounded."

"It's hysteria," she said. "There's not a single person alive who can tell you any particular place a person is going to go."

The association has invited the county's subdivision project manager and other county officials to a meeting next month and has extended a second invitation to Kirkpatrick.

Pub Date: 6/14/96

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