Sandtown-Winchester residents to comment on plan at forums

Proposed housing, parks, other projects at issue in two-hour meetings

April 12, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Residents of Sandtown-Winchester will have four chances this week to offer their opinions on new housing, open space and other land-use possibilities for their 72-square-block neighborhood.

Two-hour meetings will be held tonight through Thursday evening in the West Baltimore neighborhood. The housing department and neighborhood development groups will use the results to create the final plan they hope to present to the community by May 1.

This is the second time the community has been asked to discuss land-use issues. A master plan was presented to residents in June, but Emmanuel Price, director of Community Building Partnership Inc. (CBP), said that plan was rejected because people were unhappy with the placement of parks and proposed housing developments.

Kathy Robertson, director of Sandtown Winchester Community Development Center (SWCDC), said many businesses and housing developers have expressed interest in building in the community, but those proposals are not being included until residents can evaluate them.

At the meetings, officials from the neighborhood's three nonprofit community development groups will record residents' ideas. The CBP, the SWCDC and the Neighborhood Development Center (NDC), all with headquarters in Mount Street Community Center at 1114 Mount St., are partners with the Enterprise Foundation and the city.

The three groups were created by the community and the Enterprise Foundation with the purpose of "overseeing the whole process of neighborhood transformation," Price said.

Thousands of fluorescent orange fliers, informing people of their final chance to make their voices heard on the project, have been posted and distributed in Sandtown-Winchester.

Today's session will be held at 7 p.m. at First Mount Calvary Baptist Church, tomorrow's at 6 p.m. at Gilmor Elementary School, Wednesday's at 6 p.m. at Kelson Elementary School, and Thursday's at 6 p.m. at Harvey Johnson Towers.

Residents and representatives from nearly 30 neighborhood groups are planning to attend the meetings. JoAnne Osborne, president of the Carrollton Avenue Association, said nearly 100 residents have shown up at her neighborhood meetings when discussion of the master plan was on the agenda.

"We don't want multifamily dwellings, we want single-family homes," said Osborne.

At least 50 vacant lots dot the neighborhood, Osborne said. Many of the multifamily homes still standing have their share of drug dealers and absentee landlords, and that is why single-family homes are needed, she said.

"People don't want the community as dense," Osborne said. "They want back yards for children to play in."

Building housing is not the main focus of the master plan, Price said, but if neighbors agree that is something their area needs help with, it could be incorporated into the final draft.

"They can ask for whatever they want, but it doesn't mean they'll get it," said Price.

After the final draft is created, Price said, community groups will lobby for federal, state and local funding.

Housing issues in the Sandtown-Winchester area have received national attention during the past two years. In April 1997, the community was one of six neighborhoods nationwide to receive $5.2 million homeownership zone grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The federal funds attracted an additional $30 million from the state, the city, the Enterprise Foundation and several banks to promote housing and homeownership.

"The money is designated for specific projects," Price said, including 325 new homes and 80 rehabilitated homes.

Price said about 85 percent of planning for the homeownership zone projects is finished.

"What's slowing it down is the acquisition of old or rehabilitated properties," he said.

Pub Date: 4/12/99

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