This is in follow up to my previous article published July 14 concerning the zoning hearing to build a rooming/boarding house where the current St. Rita’s school exists. To recap, the Family Crisis Center (FCC), currently located in the shopping center near Trading Place has received state and local funding to expand their operations by building a rooming/boarding house with up to 15 dorm-like units, each unit with up to 4 bedrooms (resulting in the 24/7 housing of 40-60 adults and children), plus an office building for up to 20 staff members. The issue? They want to do so in the middle of a residential neighborhood made up of private individual homes.
Since then, the administrative law judge (ALJ) rendered her decision which was to deny the FCC’s 20+ requests for special exception (to current zoning requirements) in order to move the project forward. The judge cited numerous inconsistencies with the county’s zoning rules, but what was MOST interesting was that the type of building the FCC is proposing does not meet the county’s definition of the building being proposed. That decision is now being appealed by the FCC.
To be clear, I am not opposed to the utility of the project, I am opposed to putting this type of enterprise in my residential neighborhood AND YOUR neighborhood as well. If this project was to be approved, it would represent a blatant disregard for the zoning regulations that protect all of us and would set a precedent for similar projects in similar neighborhoods all across Baltimore County.
To make my point, substitute an enterprise that you would not like to see in your immediate neighborhood that could easily take on the same construct; a 24/7 drug rehab center, a 24/7 methadone clinic, or a 24/7 halfway house, for example. Would it not have the same impact on your neighborhood as the rooming/boarding house? Would it not impact the parking, the traffic, and put the neighborhood at increased risk of additional noise, litter, crime, and loitering? Would it not stand out as an outlier to the intent of the neighborhood, which is single family dwellings? It would. Those are the parameters provided in regulation. So, for the greater good, or the greater evil, the impact would be the same. Therefore, the judge’s obligation is to evaluate the proposal using the zoning regulations as the guideline, not the utility of the project. If that was not the case, the sentiment of the community outside the immediate area of the proposed project would always win – and the residents within the immediate area of the proposed project would always lose based on the sheer number of people not immediately impacted.
A project like this, no matter its utility, simply does not belong in a residential neighborhood. Not yours, not mine.