Chesterwye considers shelter site for group home
STEVENSVILLE — Queen Anne’s County residents will have the opportunity to hear about the proposed partnership between the county government and Chesterwye Center Inc. during a meeting on April 13 regarding the organization potentially moving in and operating the 325 State Street property in Stevensville.
At the 7 p.m. public hearing at the Percy Thomas Center, 891 Love Point Road, county and Chesterwye officials will be on hand to review the proposed facility design as well as answer any questions about the potential partnership. The design will be presented by architect David Woodward of Manns Woodward Studio.
Chesterwye Center Inc., located at 101 Chesterwye Lane in Grasonville, was founded in 1967 and focuses its efforts in aiding adults with intellectual disabilities and has 100 staff members to serve the needs of 70 adults, according to its website.
The proposed designs include a one-story, four bedroom, three bathroom facility that would house Chesterwye individuals accompanied by an around the clock full-time staff person. Debra Langseth, executive director of Chesterwye Center Inc., said the house will expand upon the organization’s mission and will target individuals who use a wheelchair.
Langseth said it’s an “exciting prospect” and has enjoyed working with the county “to figure out the best way we can meet everyone’s needs.” She said “it’s a real opportunity for the community to stand behind people that have very significant physical challenges.”
The property, which was hotly contested last spring by a group of Kent Island community members, was slated to become a transitional homeless shelter operated by Haven Ministries Inc. The county received multiple grants to purchase the property and create architectural drawings for the then multi-level facility. When the county and Haven Ministries couldn’t agree on stipulations in a memorandum of understanding, discussions stopped and Haven Ministries was no longer involved in the operation of the property.
Because the county used state grant money for property improvement designs that are no longer applicable be- cause the proposed provider has changed, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development asked the county in a December 2 letter to pay back the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) it received for designs or find a new tenant that fulfills the grants requirements. It stated the property must operate as a transitional shelter through 2018 to satisfy the grant the county received and used to purchase the property.
In the letter sent to the county, Secretary Kenneth Holt advised that the state would be “pleased to help you work with the Chesterwye Center, Inc. with their efforts to provide housing for adults with disabilities.” The letter stated the community Chesterwye serves would satisfy the grant’s transitional shelter requirements and stated the county could use the remainder of the grant money to demolish the existing facility and build a new, smaller house.
“The timing for this could not have been better,” Commission President Mark Anderson said. “...I think if you look at the 325 State Street location and we tear down the building that exists there and put up a building that looks more residential in appearance and we have Chesterwye involved...I think we’ll find support within the community for that kind of proposal.”
In December, one of Chesterwye’s homes in Grasonville caught on fire and became unlivable. Langseth said the residents occupying the home were moved into a rental home. The remainder of the building was demolished last week, Langseth said, and reconstruction bids will be sent out this week as the organization looks to rebuild its property.
But before Chesterwye lost one of its nine facilities, Langseth said the organization reached out to the county in the fall asking if it had any properties available as the organization wanted to support more people and looked to expand.
“Whether it’s the crowd that’s economically needy or needy because of developmental or disability issues...I think we try to accommodate the best we can the will of the people,” Commissioner Stephen Wilson said.
Commissioner Jack Wilson said he supports this new effort with Chesterwye “100 percent” and is glad that “all things are falling into place finally.”
Though At-large Commissioner Jim Moran, who supported Haven Ministries’ efforts while operating the State Street house and fought to keep them in the building, said he is happy a user might move in and use the facility, he still believes that property should be a homeless shelter like it was supposed to be.
“Naturally I’m disappointed that it’s not a homeless shelter because that’s what it was slated for for the past eight years. That wasn’t costing us...a nickel of county tax money,” Moran said. “But since that has since been turned away, I’m grateful we’re able to help Chesterwye.”
Moran called this potential agreement “a solution to a problem” because when the county decided not to move forward with Haven Ministries and its transitional homeless shelter, like the Matapeake Professional Park, if the grant is not satisfied the county is on the hook for the money lost and the state has indicated it will collect the wasted money. “This was our last resort to save the taxpayers from having to pay back the remainder of the money,” he said.
Jonathan Seeman, director of budget, finance and IT, did not return a message regarding the status of the grants and where the county stands in satisfying them.
“It seems to me that we have a win-win all around,” Anderson said. “Dare I even say such a thing given the volatility of this topic not too many months ago, but I have high hopes that with input from various communities understanding the grant and the strings attached to grants, that this commission is going to produce something that clearly is a win-win.”
Sign language interpreters and listening systems will be available for individuals with hearing impairments. For more information, contact Tina Miles at 410-758-2126 seven days before the meeting if assistance is necessary.
Commissioner Robert Buckey did not return a call for comment before the paper went to print.
For more information regarding the Chesterwye Center and its services, visit its website: www.chesterwye. com.
An informational meeting regarding the 325 State Street property in Stevensville will be held at the Percy Thomas Center, 891 Love Point Rd., at 7 p.m. on April 13 to discuss with the community a potential partnership between the county and Chesterwye Center Inc. regarding the organization operating the facility.