Recently we learned of a petition that would convert the old St. Rita’s school to a ROOMING/BOARDING house as part of an expansion to the existing family crisis counseling center currently located in Dundalk. The few who learned of this petition quickly spread the word to the rest of the neighborhood, as we had only a few days to prepare for the hearing, if we wanted our reactions to be heard.

The petition was represented by a high-profile attorney who spent the first 1 ½ hours tediously going over detailed blueprints of the project. Clearly this had been in the works for some time, as the project leaders came well-armed.

The petition requests that a rooming/boarding house be located at what used to be a vibrant church and school. Through no fault of the surrounding neighborhood, the archdiocese’s gross mismanagement of the property now subjects the neighborhood to yet another one of the county’s proposed social programs in the middle of the residential area surrounding St. Rita’s Catholic Church.

Dundalk has fought hard for many years to stay quiet and safe, despite the influx of community programs jammed down our throats that have negatively impacted our right to a peaceful, crime-free, and drama-free existence. And now, behind our backs, the county wants to put a halfway house in the middle of a residential neighborhood where people walk their dogs, and our kids and grandkids play and bicycle.

To begin with, it was unscrupulous of the county to practically hide the zoning signs announcing the petition. A next-door neighbor of St. Rita’s for 60 years, AND a parishioner there, testified that she did not know until a few days before the hearing of any plans for a boarding house. That is just unconscionable, despicable, and underhanded by the county and the archdiocese.

It is not my intent to be uncaring or unsympathetic. My reaction to this proposal is based on my experience as a 60-something resident of various Maryland city and county communities who has witnessed the long-term negative effects of programs such as these started by younger idealists who have not yet lived long enough to have had their lives and/or communities personally affected by the outcomes. Dundalk has done its fair share of supporting the underserved. Pick a location that does not involve a residential community already struggling to deal with the consequences of the county’s current social engineering.

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