B'nai Israel to buy building Congregation will occupy Optimist property

December 03, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The days of wandering for one small Jewish congregation in Carroll County are at an end. B'nai Israel plans to settle on property in Eldersburg by the first of the year.

The congregation, chartered nearly 20 years ago, cleared the last hurdle yesterday with the Carroll County Board of Zoning Appeals and will probably hold its first service in the Freedom Optimist Club building on Arthur Avenue this week.

"We want to have our own home," said Barry Heiserman, president of the congregation of 31 families. "We are tired of wandering in the desert."

The three-member appeals board ruled that a synagogue is an accepted use for conservation-zoned property.

"It is definitely a less-intensive use than what is there now," said James Schumacher, chairman of the appeals board.

The congregation and the Optimists would not discuss the terms of the contract, other than to say it was contingent on zoning board approval.

The Freedom Optimist Club, a community service organization with 78 members, bought the 18-acre site in 1969 and immediately constructed the building. A meeting room was added 10 years ago.

The building and five acres have been on the market for about a year, with an asking price of $220,000. The club planned to keep the remaining acreage, nearly all wooded.

B'nai Israel will purchase three acres and the building. Members did not disclose the selling price.

The cost of buying and maintaining five acres "would be a hardship on our congregation," Heiserman said.

"The concept was ideal for them and for us," said Creston Mills, a Freedom Optimist official.

The congregation, which holds services Friday evenings and operates a religious school for 19 children on Sunday mornings, has leased space for four years in the Warfield Building, on Main Street in Sykesville.

The recent sale of that property meant another move for the congregation. When members learned the Optimists had a building available, they decided to buy.

"We fell in love with the Optimists' place," said Cantor Al Stein, religious leader of the group. "We are a small group, and this serves what we want in the way of religious observances."

The 5,000-square-foot building includes a hall that can accommodate about 200 people, a kitchen and a meeting room. The sale includes a paved lot with 49 parking spaces that Stein said he "wishes we could fill" and an athletic field.

"Three acres are big enough for our congregation for the foreseeable future," said Heiserman. "We have no plans to expand and no use for additional acres."

The Optimists sponsor several Boy Scout troops, which will continue to use the property surrounding the synagogue for camping and other activities. The congregation will allow youth athletic events on a recently graded soccer and lacrosse field.

"The congregation was really receptive to letting us use the field," Mills said. "Athletic fields are really at a premium in South Carroll."

The Optimists own a larger building on Route 32 and will move their meetings and social events there.

"It was getting increasingly difficult to keep both buildings going," Mills said. "We decide to sell one and make improvements to the other."

The Optimists frequently held dances, bull roasts and crab feasts in the hall and rented the property for various events. Because B'nai Israel will keep a kosher kitchen, rentals will be limited to groups that adhere to dietary laws.

The only resident to speak at the hearing yesterday welcomed the congregation. William Hammett of Oakland Mills Road said, "They will sure be much quieter than the Optimists." He said he is concerned with traffic on the winding road and asked the congregation to post a sign at its entrance.

"Traffic is always a concern, but this group will generate less traffic on this street than a lot of things that could go there," said Ronald Hoff, a member of the appeals board.

The board made its approval contingent on a site plan, directional signs and no cutting of trees.

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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