Letters to the Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 16, 2006

Family who lost home now needs our help

It is hard to put to words my thoughts after reading the Rochee family article ("Couple fight to keep home in Columbia, April 2) in the Howard section of The Sun. After over 20 years in banking, I know something of the real estate industry.

It still took me a second reading of the article to fathom the absurdity of my neighbors, the Rochees, losing their home to someone due to one year's taxes and interest totaling $2,634.52. My first reaction was disbelief, then anger at the perpetrators and finally a depth of sadness for the Rochee family like I have not felt in years. Like many other neighbors of the Rochees, my family was heartbroken when Sean passed away in 1993. We made the trip down to their church in Washington, D.C. At the funeral, I still remember the pastor's deep baritone resonating:

"The Rochee family is at a crossroads. ... The Rochee family needs your help."

We, who never lost a child, never knew the depths of the grief the Rochees felt. We didn't know Mrs. Rochee was suffering in silence or that paying the taxes seemed too trivial a worry compared to the loss of her son. That part of this tragic story is the only one that makes sense. In that thought of what is important, we stand beside her.

I didn't sleep well after reading the story, and I wondered how the nameless people who sold the Rochees' home at a tax sale for $291,000 slept. We all know they felt guilty about the $288,365.48 in profit they made. We know this because otherwise they would not hide behind the corporations they set up.

If they had a conscience, they would have walked up to the house on Green Mountain Circle the day after the article was published, said they'd made a mistake and handed over the deed. They would have asked the Rochees to pay them the $2,634.52 when they had the chance.

Days after the story appeared, we spoke with the Rochees' attorney. No luck on the people turning over the deed. My anger returns, but now with it is a sense of purpose.

The pastor's words also return:

"The Rochee family is at a crossroads. ... The Rochee family needs your help." My family has decided to stand beside the Rochees. Please stand with us. Donations can be made as follows: The Rochee Family Home Fund Citizens National Bank 8194 Maple Lawn Blvd. Fulton 20759

Tim Storch

Leonardtown

The writer lived in Columbia from 1968 to 1996 in the same Bryant Woods neighborhood as the Rochee family. Mr. Storch still refers to the Rochee family as his neighbors.

Student supports anti-smoking cause

Once again, the Howard County Council will be debating whether to offer all restaurant and bar workers a safe, smoke-free workplace. The debate has already played out and the citizens and workers of Howard County have spoken.

It is very clear that the people want smoke-free air, and they want it soon. Unfortunately, the bill that has recently been introduced will not give workers a safe working environment until 2008. With all we know about the health effects of secondhand smoke, this is truly unacceptable.

As a young person who will soon be voting in county elections, I will be looking very closely at candidates who don't play political games with peoples' health. I'll be expecting my county leaders to do the right thing in order to get a smoke-free bill passed and have it implemented as soon as possible.

Carlos Urtecho

Ellicott City

The writer is a senior at Mount Hebron High School.

Plans for Belmont seem uncertain

The Board of Howard Community College (HCC) along with several community members submitted a letter to The Sun (April 9) endorsing the college's plan for Belmont. It is unclear what they are endorsing and who they are supporting, or not supporting.

The county executive has stated that Howard County Recreation and Parks is purchasing Belmont. There has already been a public Planning Board hearing on the transition of Belmont capital funds from HCC to Recreation and Parks. As best I can tell, none of the signers of the letter in The Sun were present at this April 6 hearing. No one testified on their behalf or on behalf of the college.

Recreation and Parks is now the lead agency for Belmont. Yet HCC continues to mount a publicity campaign on its plans for the property. This campaign includes a full-color, glossy mailer sent just last week, presumably using our tax dollars, to county residents.

Recreation and Parks will be acquiring Belmont with support from Program Open Space. Program Open Space requires the property maintain open space. HCC's previous plans at Belmont for residential housing, land swaps with Patapsco Valley State Park, and a 100,000-square- foot-plus expansion are neither consistent with Belmont's historic preservation easement nor the concept of open space.

If HCC has another plan for Belmont that the public is not yet aware of, I would request that they be open and honest about it so we do not face a repeat of the last 18 months of their "plans."

Burnet H. Chalmers

Elkridge

Mr. Chalmers is the founder and treasurer of the Rockburn Land Trust.

Correcting quote on Belmont plans

I am writing to clarify a quote attributed to me twice in The Sun, including in the April 12 article about Howard Community College's Hospitality program ("Cooking up a reputation"). I am quoted as saying that HCC's Hospitality Program is "a good program" but that Belmont is "absolutely the wrong place" for this program.

This quote first appeared after I testified at the county executive's budget hearing. My testimony read that HCC's 100,000-square- foot-plus expansion was "absolutely wrong" for Belmont, not that the Hospitality Program itself was wrong for Belmont. Belmont, like many area restaurants and catering facilities, could be a fine site for HCC's students to learn their craft, if HCC's planned expansion was consistent with the historic and scenic easements on the property.

Meg Schumacher

Elkridge

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