Strong arm of the city

Northeast Baltimore: Daniel Henson's attempt to cancel HARBEL lease was high-handed.

June 16, 1999

THE CITY will not expel Northeast Baltimore's HARBEL community organization from its longtime headquarters after all. That's good. But considering how difficult it is to get zoning for drug treatment programs, it is unfathomable that Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III even tried to cancel the group's renewable lease.

Mr. Henson should have known better. He is a board member of Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems Inc., which manages the city's treatment programs.

These programs are vital in a city where one out of eight adults is estimated to be a drug addict. There simply are not enough slots to treat them all. Losing HARBEL's 232 treatment slots would have made the situation even worse.

HARBEL has occupied a city-owned building at 5807 Harford Road for 22 years. The way the lease is written, it is renewable; the sole requirement is timely notification from the community organization of its intent to renew. Yet in a May 21 letter, Mr. Henson ordered HARBEL to vacate by July 31. This act was unnecessarily high-handed.

The city may have legitimate needs for the building. Having now extended the lease for a year, the city must clarify the meaning of the renewability clause. Any organization running a drug treatment program must have plenty of lead time to prepare to move and win the required zoning approvals.

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