Commissioner asks state to quit backing Henryton for City of Hope project Former hospital center is not appropriate for 'drug addicts,' Brown says

July 07, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Carroll Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown has called for an end to state efforts to lease the Henryton Center in Marriottsville to a humanitarian organization.

Harvest International Inc. has failed again to meet the state-imposed deadline and take possession of the former hospital on 50 acres adjoining Patapsco State Park. The organization has not filed a rezoning petition with Carroll County, an action it must take before it can renovate the 18 aging buildings into a $5.6 million Henryton City of Hope.

The existing conservation zoning does not allow for a project that includes drug rehabilitation, a homeless shelter and a jobs training center. To rezone, the applicant must prove a mistake in the original zoning or a change in the neighborhood, which is also zoned for conservation.

"The property is legally zoned, and there is no legal basis for rezoning it," said Brown. "Henryton is an appropriate habitat for deer and birds, but not for drug addicts. Officials who say otherwise should have their heads examined."

County officials and residents have opposed the plan since it was announced last fall. Several public hearings to educate the public to the need for the center generated much ill will between City of Hope organizers and neighbors.

"From day one, someone needed to send the state a strong, clear message to back off," said Brown.

Since the commissioners decide on rezoning issues, Brown said he was not previously in a position to speak against the project. Now, with repeated delays and no rezoning application "or correspondence of any kind from Harvest International," Brown is urging the state to curtail the lease.

"Harvest International is not sufficiently organized to have even taken step one, since the lease was first announced," he said.

In a letter to state officials last week, Brown said the property should become part of the state park that surrounds it.

"The people of South Carroll have been subjected to nine months of uncertainty and stress," he said. "It is time to put an end to the valid concerns of the citizenry who live in the area."

The latest extension of the lease expired Wednesday. State officials have said they will not extend the agreement for a fourth time, since the original document was signed in September.

Attorneys for both sides will meet today in Annapolis in hopes of reaching a settlement.

Pub Date: 7/07/98

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