Harvest defers lease date for aid center site Move follows citizens' protests over plans for homeless, addicts

New target is Dec. 31

Work will continue on zoning for City of Hope at Henryton

October 16, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Responding to neighbors' concerns about its humanitarian center -- which would include a homeless shelter -- Harvest International Inc. agreed yesterday to defer the effective date of its lease of Henryton Hospital until Dec. 31.

The lease signed last month for 18 aging buildings on 50 acres at the state-owned site in Marriottsville was to take effect yesterday.

In the intervening two months, the Owings Mills-based group will "move forward with zoning for the property," which is zoned for conservation use. The original hospital, built for tuberculosis patients in 1923, predates most zoning ordinances.

During two recent community meetings, Harvest International described its plans to renovate the site into the City of Hope, a $5.6 million international aid center. It faced strenuous opposition from neighbors concerned with their safety and property values.

The project received the unanimous approval of the state Board of Public Works on Sept. 10.

City of Hope will initially include a homeless shelter for 40 men and a job-training center for recovering substance abusers -- two components that have raised fears in the area that adjoins Patapsco State Park. Additional phases of the nine-year renovation will encompass an international distribution center, a home for unwed mothers, a hospice and other family-oriented services.

Once the project was made public, state officials and members of Harvest International organized the public meetings.

Instead of constructive dialogue, the sessions were "nothing more than venting, with very little regard for common courtesy," Samson Doolin, Harvest International director, said yesterday.

"Having no legal obligation to do so, we agreed to participate in the spirit of good will and cooperation for concerned citizens."

Darlene Reidy of Arrington Road attended the second meeting Oct. 9 and agreed that "there was venting, but citizens are angry and frustrated."

"There is an economic prejudice to people with drug problems coming here from Baltimore for treatment. We don't want them here."

Harvest will not participate in more public meetings, but will reserve its comments for zoning and licensing hearings, Doolin said. He asked that the County Commissioners "demonstrate unbiased and responsible leadership" as the project goes through the development review process.

"For us to be for them, Harvest International must first sell this project to the public," said Commissioner Richard T. Yates. "We must be responsive to the citizens who live here."

Harvest will not rely on a 14-member panel of Henryton neighbors for advice, but will appoint its advisory council "that is socio-demographically diverse," Doolin said. It will include those interested in the project and experienced in its humanitarian programs, he said.

"How will they pick diversity from a neighborhood where there is little diversity?" Yates asked. "They might as well not choose a board at all, if it is not made up of neighbors."

Henryton neighbors will use the extension to discuss the project with the legislative delegation and county officials. A petition against City of Hope is circulating in South Carroll. Many hope to marshal countywide opposition.

Many also have criticized state officials for finalizing the proposal without community input. The County Commissioners received Harvest International's proposal last year and the planning department reviewed it, calling it consistent with local plans and projections.

The extension is "a step in the right direction," Reidy said. "It shows Harvest International is trying to be accommodating."

Reidy said the elimination of the drug treatment and homeless programs might garner more support from residents. "Why do we have to take problem people from all over the state?" she said. "This will affect our way of life and our property values."

Doolin said he remains certain that in Carroll County, "Many share our mission of compassion to the less fortunate."

County officials have said they expect City of Hope to encounter more opposition from the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals.

Pub Date: 10/16/97

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