History of development plans for Covenant Baptist was...


August 01, 1999

History of development plans for Covenant Baptist was distorted

As a relative newcomer to Howard County, I must admit that I have been taken aback by the volatile nature of some of the public discussion concerning Covenant Baptist Church and plans for our property on Centennial Lane.

Our intent is and has always been to exhibit a spirit of cooperation and reasonableness. We want to be good neighbors. Howard County is our home and we share the common goal of all residents to see our community retain and improve upon those very characteristics that make it such a desirable place to live.

Thus, it has been dismaying to see some of the opponents of our plan resorting to reckless and thoughtless statements and allegations that reflect an absence of factual knowledge.

Two of these baseless charges especially demand correction. Remaining silent about them would deprive the people of Howard County and readers of this newspaper of key facts that are essential to an accurate understanding of what is and has been occurring on Centennial Lane.

First, no member of Covenant's pastoral leadership has ever misled county officials or residents regarding our plans to develop the church's property.

Opponents have misconstrued Pastor Darrell Baker's response to questions in a 1996 public hearing from Howard County Council member Mary Lorsung and later statements in a letter to the director of planning and zoning.

The historical context of these discussions dealt only with R20 development Pastor Baker stated the church would not seek a zoning change from RC to R20. The proposal currently being discussed, as with the previous senior housing proposal, is allowable and consistent with the RC zoning of the church's property on Centennial Lane.

Recently, County Council member Allan Kittleman reviewed the public record of these matters and concluded that he "does not believe the church deliberately deceived the county in its efforts to get public water and sewer service."

The truth is that in return for public sewer and water Covenant paid $17,225 for a storm-drain assessment fee to support future development and agreed to place 67 of 123 acres in the County's agricultural preservation program. The 67 acres have been set aside in a perpetual easement without compensation from the Howard County Agricultural Board.

Second, in our discussions regarding using a portion of the land to partially finance our church and school, it was Howard County's director of planning and zoning, not Covenant Baptist, who first suggested a senior housing project.

Covenant's leadership saw merit in his suggestion for senior housing, but revised the structural design from a large multilevel, commercial-style building to a residential design more in keeping with existing homes in the area. Covenant continued to seek approval for this project until recently when we withdrew our petition for the senior development in an effort to work together in good faith with county officials to explore other options that would be a satisfactory compromise.

I have been encouraged by the small steps of progress that have been made by church leaders and certain county officials in seeking an equitable solution that works within county guidelines, addresses community concerns and meets the ministry goals of our church. This progress has been made by the diligent effort of concerned people working with integrity, responsibility and a spirit of good compromise.

Our church leadership remains hopeful that diligent and honest work, goodwill and a reasonable spirit will allow progress to be made without further misinformed attacks that wrongfully challenge an individual's and entity's integrity, intelligence and selfworth.

We have not and will not use such tactics against those who disagree with us.

Danny M. Crow


The writer is senior pastor of Covenant Baptist Church.

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