Time for healing in Guilford Howard County: With appeals board's approval of 'megachurch,' community must work together.

September 18, 1998

TOO MANY angry words have been exchanged over expansion plans for the First Baptist Church of Guilford. Since the Howard County Board of Appeals has ruled the church can build a sanctuary and community center, it is time to stop the fractious rhetoric.

Nearby residents have raised valid concerns about increased noise and traffic. The best way to make sure the church expansion doesn't reduce the community's quality of life is to maintain communication between all parties.

First Baptist has been a good citizen of Guilford for almost a century. When developers decades ago tried to increase commercial development in the area, church members worked hard to preserve the old neighborhoods. They welcomed subdivisions that included more expensive homes.

First Baptist members have lived in Guilford since it was primarily an African-American community of sharecroppers and farm workers. They remember when Guilford Elementary was "the black school."

But the church must recognize that the fears of residents of newer subdivisions such as Oak Ridge are genuine and work to alleviate them.

A step in that direction was an agreement by the church to reduce use of the community center during the week by allowing parking in only half of its 636 spaces.

Building such a large facility in any neighborhood is going to add traffic and noise that must be handled. But First Baptist's growth does not mean it will stop being a good neighbor.

The church wants to add recreation and education programs to benefit the entire community.

To do that, wounds opened in the argument over the expansion must receive the right medicine -- communication.

Pub Date: 9/18/98

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