Lease decision on proposed City of Hope project in Marriottsville due today residents seek delay

Harvest International Inc. plans job training, shelter

October 15, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Harvest International Inc. will announce today whether it will defer the effective date of its lease for state-owned property in Marriottsville, where it plans to build an international aid center.

Originally, the lease for the 18 aging buildings on 50 acres at the long-vacant Henryton Hospital was to have taken effect Oct. 1. In response to residents' concerns, the Owings Mills-based humanitarian organization delayed the date until today.

Neighbors of Henryton, an isolated area that adjoins Patapsco State Park, are demanding a 60-day delay. An extension would be the leaseholder's decision, state officials said.

In two recent meetings with state officials and Harvest International, residents have pressed for specifics on the proposed programs, particularly a job training center for rehabilitated substance abusers and a homeless shelter that would house 40 men.

State Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Carroll Republican who has supported the project, said yesterday he opposes any lease extension.

"I don't think extending the lease will make this any more palatable to residents who want the site to be parkland," Haines said.

Haines called their fears for safety and their perceptions of declining property values unfounded.

"Growth has occurred around Springfield Hospital Center [for the mentally ill] for years and property values have appreciated," Haines said. "Harvest International has a valid lease and every right to petition the zoning board with its proposal."

Many residents have said they would like the deal canceled and the buildings razed, a move that would cost taxpayers an estimated $2 million.

State officials have repeatedly said they prefer renovation to razing.

"We have taken their concerns into consideration and are evaluating our next step," Samson Doolin, Harvest International director, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

News conference today

Doolin scheduled a news conference at 11: 30 a.m. today at the Executive Center in Owings Mills.

He promised a decision on the extension and more details about the proposed City of Hope project.

The two recent meetings with residents were premature, Doolin said.

Harvest International had met all the state requirements in its proposal, which included a $5.6 million three-phased plan to renovate the buildings into an international aid center, he said.

The organization could not develop specifics, until it had a lease approved by the state Board of Public Works, he said.

On Sept. 10, the three-member state board granted the organization a $5,000-a-year lease with an option to buy after 15 years. Harvest International would be responsible for all funding and renovations.

Residents claimed the proposal was vague and showed a lack of preparation. Many, like Tom Marney of Marriottsville, said the programs would "introduce dangerous populations into a rural area."

"What sticks out from the meetings is that residents are ripping apart a proposal that was written exactly the way the state had demanded," said Lisa Marie Hargrove, spokeswoman for the center. "To win lease approval, we did not have to outline programs that are still in the development stage."

Doolin said he would offer more specifics today, particularly on security.

"We met every criteria the state asked for two years ago," he said. "We had to get through the first stage -- Board of Public Works approval -- before we could work on our programs, putting all the components together. That is the process, the time line we are working under."

City of Hope would be subject to all local zoning ordinances and would have to secure licenses for all its programs.

Henryton, which opened in 1923 as a tubercular hospital, predated Carroll County zoning ordinances.

County Commissioner Richard T. Yates said the county received a copy of the proposal last year.

"We sent it to our staff for review and got no other information," Yates said. "The next thing I hear 15 months later is that there is a lease."

Office of Planning review

Haines said the county Office of Planning reviewed the proposal in August 1996 and deemed it "consistent with county planning and projections."

But, Yates said the concept will encounter difficulty with the county Planning and Zoning Commission.

"Before City of Hope has these people for friendly neighbors, it has to sell them on their safety," Yates said. "I could support it as long as it satisfies local people that they will be safe. Now, they are scared."

Doolin said he is not discouraged by the opposition.

"I know that not everyone supports the idea," he said. "But, there are plenty of good people who believe in this project ardently."

Pub Date: 10/15/97

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