Art museum imperils area's rural heritage
I am saddened and disgusted by the Baltimore County Council's apparent support of legislation to override agricultural zoning to create an art museum in a farming community, and with the one-sided coverage of the issue by The Sun ("Museum proposed in rural Balto. Co.," Feb. 27).
Agricultural zoning is designed to preserve farmland and the viability of farming as a way of life.
Each exception that permits a nonconforming use makes it all easier for the next nonconforming use to obtain approval; this is a process of slow erosion of an area's rural character, and by the time its effects are widely recognized, it is too late.
Yet The Sun dedicated only a few paragraphs of a 32-paragraph article about the farm proposal to the opposition to the proposal.
The bulk of the article focused on the "importance" of the art collection amassed by the Meyerhoffs and how their proposal is a "gift to the nation."
Councilman Kevin Kamenetz, who generally displays better instincts, claims that his amendments to the zoning bill would limit the negative impact of an essentially commercial enterprise on the farming community.
But those "limits" - restricting operating hours to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week, etc. - do not call for an operation any different from that of a typical museum.
And why should rural Baltimore County pay the price for this "gift to the nation"?
Perhaps, as Doreen Bolger, the director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, notes, "Any museum would be thrilled to have it [the Meyerhoff collection] in its neighborhood." But the rural residents whose property taxes contribute to the salaries of the members of the County Council may not be so enthusiastic.
Growing up on Long Island, N.Y., I watched with dismay as the vegetable and horse farms were paved over and developed into the worst suburban sprawl in the nation.
Since moving to an older home in what seemed like rural Baltimore County 15 years ago, I have watched with renewed dismay as variances, special exceptions and downzoning have allowed the insidious destruction of nature's works for the benefit of developers and others.
Once farmland is gone, it is gone forever.
The chipping away of a rural community cannot be unchipped.
How can modern paintings be deemed more valuable than undeveloped land in Baltimore County that has been undisturbed for centuries?
On Wednesday, The Sun reported on a bill being considered by the Baltimore County Council - a bill that would lift zoning restrictions in a rural conservation area for the benefit of one family.
The bill would permit a museum to be located on the 200-acre Meyerhoff farm in northern Baltimore County.
Often quoting one of Robert Meyerhoff's attorneys and the cognoscenti of the art community, The Sun's article tells us that this is a superb collection of postmodern art, that it is worth in excess of $300 million.
The next day, The Sun, under the banner "To the point" (editorial, Feb. 28), recommended the bill.
But none of this is actually "to the point."
Allowing that this is a beautiful collection owned by a fine man, The Sun failed to look further.
Should a museum be located in an area whose zoning is designed to restrict such enterprises?
Will such a fine collection, in a rural area, be accessible to the people of Maryland (and not just the glitterati of the art community)?
What kind of infrastructure (police, fire, roads, etc.) will be required for this museum?
And will the local community have any involvement in shaping the inevitable future growth of this museum?
When the County Council is approached by a celebrity property owner who finds zoning law inconvenient, The Sun should ask the hard questions.
The writer is secretary of the Long Green Valley Association.
Do more to help Filipino teachers
Instead of illuminating the trying circumstances most Filipino teachers face, The Sun's article "Broken hearts, broken dreams" (Feb. 24) seems to blame the victims of recent suicides for not seeking help.
This despite the fact that their culture does not condone seeking therapy; that America and American culture are new to them; that their families are literally half a world away; and that they are teaching in schools where students are often disrespectful and disengaged from learning.
While a great teacher can change students' attitudes and raise achievement, teaching in Baltimore is a challenge for anyone.
That is why the school system brings Filipino teachers here - not enough Americans are willing to teach in our city.
Consider, then, the burden and shock that teaching in this system must be for someone who is not from the United States.
To better support these teachers, the city school system must be honest in its recruiting efforts and work to help ease the teachers into the system.