Future unclear for facility Plan for homeless, job training project at Henryton in trouble

Neighbors opposed

Politics likely culprit in delay of group's rezoning request

July 03, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The future of an abandoned state hospital in Marriottsville remains uncertain, and local politics might be to blame.

State officials want to implement a lease for Henryton Hospital signed 10 months ago with Harvest International Inc., a nonprofit humanitarian organization. But local officials are cool to the idea.

Harvest International wants to turn the center into a $5.6 million international aid complex that would be known as Henryton City of Hope. It would initially house 40 homeless men and provide job-training for recovering substance abusers.

Before it can begin renovation of the 18 aging buildings, &L however, Harvest International must petition Carroll County to rezone the 50-acre hospital site, which adjoins Patapsco State Park.

A facility of the type envisioned by Harvest International is not permitted under current zoning.

Faced with fierce opposition from residents and a lack of enthusiasm from Carroll's three County Commissioners, the organization has delayed filing a rezoning petition.

The commissioners -- two of whom oppose the project -- sit as the county Zoning Board and would rule on the rezoning request. Commissioners Donald I. Dell and Richard T. Yates, both seeking re-election, have said they hear frequently from constituents who are also opposed to the project.

A public hearing on Harvest International's rezoning request would put the issue in front of voters and could rekindle what has been a fierce debate.

"They may be waiting for the election to be over to apply for rezoning," Commissioner Donald I. Dell said of Harvest International's reluctance to file the rezoning request.

The state, meanwhile, is eager to dispose of the property and end the high cost of maintaining it -- $100,000 annually for security alone.

State officials are averse to any more delays.

"We are not extending the effective date of the lease," said R. Stevens Cassard Jr., assistant secretary for real estate at the state Department of General Services.

"I have an effective lease, but I am still in possession of the property and maintaining security on it," he said.

Lawyers for the state and Harvest International met yesterday and plan to conclude their discussions Tuesday, Cassard said.

"We anticipate finality soon," said the Rev. Samson Doolin, Harvest International president. "The attorneys know what we are after so there are no loose ends."

Terms of the 15-year lease would have Harvest International paying $5,000 a year for Henryton and assuming all costs of renovation. The organization also agreed to pay half the cost of a $10,000 survey of the property, when the lease becomes effective.

"In a normal real estate transaction, the owner would be responsible for the survey and would normally know what he was selling," Doolin said. "We want to make a good faith attempt and not press the issue."

The state tried for several years to market Henryton, which has been vacant since 1984. Asbestos cleanup, estimated to cost $2 million, and other environmental issues kept most prospective tenants away.

Harvest International was the only organization to develop a proposal.

Dell and Yates have said they think the deal will unravel.

"The question now is whether this will really happen, whether anything will come of it," Dell said.

Yates questioned why Harvest International wants to continue the project in the face of so much opposition.

"They won't be welcomed here," Yates said.

Doolin is undeterred.

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

Pub Date: 7/03/98

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