City backs 3 sites for homeless shelter Residents decry commissioners' pick of downtown location

September 28, 1997|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Westminster officials have offered the County Commissioners three alternative locations for a homeless shelter -- hoping to have the facility built almost anywhere but at the commissioners' chosen site near the county administration building on South Center Street.

But after visiting all three, city and county officials say the most likely spot for the Safe Haven Shelter is on part of the city's 20-acre old wastewater plant site at the end of Goodwins Quarry Road. A decision could come this week.

Thomas B. Beyard, Westminster's director of planning and public works, said the site has sewer service, and water service could easily be provided.

"It's a nice site, quiet and buffered with trees," Beyard said. The city could make an arrangement, such as leasing it to the county for $1 a year, because there's no money to buy land for the new shelter, he said.

City officials and some residents have vehemently opposed the commissioners' plan to build a shelter near Route 140 and South Center Street -- between the county administration building and a 7-Eleven convenience store.

Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan said the decision "is up to the County Commissioners."

Max Bair, the commissioners' chief of staff, said, "We need a more detailed look at [the Goodwins Quarry Road site]. We don't know whether there will be any surprises. Short of that, it does appear that the site has characteristics that would lend itself to that use."

The two other locations suggested last week are off Route 97 near the Carroll County airport: one at Kriders Church Road, on property owned by the state, and the other at New Meadow Branch Road, which is owned by the county.

But Beyard said both sites may lie in the path of future roads or business development around the airport. And, he said, pedestrian safety is an issue on busy Route 97.

Grant is at stake

The existing county shelter in the 200 block of Stoner Ave. is on property bought by Carroll County General Hospital in 1994.

Although hospital officials have not indicated any immediate plans for the building, the County Commissioners are concerned that the county could lose a $1 million federal grant if a new site isn't selected soon.

According to the guidelines of a federal grant, the shelter should already have been built, said Ginger Rafferty, a program specialist with the state Department of Human Resources, which is overseeing the federal grant.

But Rafferty said the money won't run out: The grant for the building and services runs for three years -- until March 1999 -- and the state intends to work with the county to see the shelter built.

Site near seniors rejected

Westminster officials favored a long-standing proposal to build a new shelter on county-owned land near the current facility. But the commissioners rejected that location beside the Westminster Senior Activities Center at 125 Stoner Ave. after concerns were raised by the county's Commission on Aging and two residents of nearby Timber Ridge, a community for senior citizens.

Several Westminster residents spoke out against the Center Street location at city council meetings. They expressed concern about their children's safety and their property value if alcoholics, drug addicts and the mentally ill gather near their homes.

Some saw the shelter as a magnet that would draw undesirables to the city.

"We feel the facility is needed," Beyard reminded them. "We all realize that the city and the county have a responsibility to meet. The impact on the city would still be there if these folks have no place to go but under the bridge or behind the fence."

One who agreed was Sylvia Canon, executive director of Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc., the private nonprofit agency that operates the Safe Haven Shelter and other programs and facilities for the homeless.

After listening to the complaints Monday night, Canon said: "They can build it in the median strip. I don't care where they zTC build it -- so long as they build it."

Pub Date: 9/28/97

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