Hope project misses cutoff State to decide today on 4th lease extension for Harvest group

'Evaluate the situation'

Organization needs rezoning at Henryton to develop aid complex

July 02, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

State officials expect to decide today whether a humanitarian organization should receive another extension on a lease for Henryton Center in Marriottsville.

Harvest International Inc. has been trying for more than a year to begin turning the former state hospital into a $5.6 million international aid complex that would be known as Henryton City of Hope.

But to convert the 50-acre property adjoining Patapsco State Park into a center that would provide a homeless shelter for 40 men and job training for recovering substance abusers, Harvest International must petition county officials to rezone the property -- something the nonprofit organization has not done.

Without rezoning, Harvest International cannot proceed with its 10-year plan to renovate the 18 aging buildings.

The state has granted three extensions to give the organization time to pursue zoning requirements. The latest deadline passed yesterday.

"If they don't have their ducks in a row by now, they might as well give up," said County Commissioner Richard T. Yates.

State officials have declined Harvest International's request to extend the effective date of the lease by at least another 90 days.

"We are not in a position to execute an extension of the effective date," said R. Stevens Cassard Jr., assistant secretary for real estate at the state Department of General Services.

The lease is "on hold for the moment, and the state continues to guard the property," said Cassard. Maintaining security at Henryton costs the state about $100,000 annually.

Attorneys for the state and Harvest International will meet today "to evaluate the situation in terms of the lease document," Cassard said.

"It is in the hands of their attorneys and our attorney, and I am optimistic we can work this out," said the Rev. Samson Doolin, Harvest International president.

"We want to take as much time as we need and be prudent, good stewards. Henryton has a lot of problems. We have to be patient and work around them."

When the nonprofit relief organization first took a lease on the Henryton property, zoning did not appear to be a problem.

But Carroll officials have since received numerous inquiries on .. the status of project, which they have dubbed a "hot" question.

Any rezoning request requires public hearings. This one would surely rekindle opposition from nearby residents who have protested the plan since it was made public last year.

"There are those who want us to go away, but we are not deterred in our mission whatsoever," Doolin said.

The original 15-year lease required Harvest International to pay $5,000 annually and all renovation costs. The organization asked for a fourth extension early last month. One more will be sufficient to accomplish all requirements critical to the effort, Doolin said.

"From the beginning, we have been pursuing our goals," he said. "We are trying to position ourselves to do what our mission is."

Harvest International has temporary offices and a HOPE Service Center on Route 32 in Sykesville. From there, it expects to direct efforts at Henryton and begin a ministry that will include counseling and outpatient services to recovering substances abusers.

"We know there are rising concerns in the county about alcoholism and substance abuse," Doolin said. "We want to be part of the solution."

Pub Date: 7/02/98

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