County OKs resolution for use of State Street site
Names Chesterwye grant sub-recipient
CENTREVILLE — The Queen Anne’s County Commissioners signed a resolution in a 3-2 vote notifying the state of its interest in moving forward with a proposed four-bed home for the Chesterwye Center Inc. in Stevensville, naming it a sub-recipient to a grant during its Tuesday, April 26, meeting in Centreville. Commissioners Jim Moran and Robert Buckey did not sign the letter.
Before the vote, community members were given a final chance to speak on the proposed project at 325 State St. Mike Clark, director of the county’s department of community services, said the Community Development Block Grant program requires both a community hearing and meeting. The community hearing was held at the Percy Thomas Senior Center in Stevensville on April 13, where residents had the opportunity to hear from Chesterwye and county officials about the project.
Mike Ranelli, a Stevensville resident who opposed plans to build a homeless shelter on the property, thanked the commissioners, county staff, Chesterwye officials and the Housing Authority for their work in finding a different use for the site.
“I’d just like to say a welcome to Chesterwye,” Ranelli said. “I think this house is a great fit for the community as planned. It looks beautiful and we look forward to welcoming our new neighbors.”
Stevensville resident Sharon Harlow applauded Moran and Buckey for recognizing the need to find solutions for the homeless population as well as the needs of other community members.
“We must move forward with some kind of plan to meet the needs of our homeless population,” she said. “It’s imperative that we recognize this population exists. They attend our schools and our churches, they work in our businesses; they’re usually just down on their luck for a very short period of time and they need a roof over their head.”
At the present, Harlow said, this is a more “in-need population” that the county has no resources to aid.
Moran, who thanked Chesterwye for the work it does supporting adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said despite his support of the nonprofit that “this is a travesty” because the property should be a homeless shelter. Through community uproar last spring and an eventual disagreement between the county and Haven Ministries Inc. — the nonprofit organization that operated a transitional shelter in the facility — about security stipulations in a Memorandum of Understanding, the project was called off.
But because the county received money from the state through a CDBG grant and had used portions of the $757,284 it received for architectural drawings and engineering for the shelter, the state told the county to find a new user that fits the requirements of CDBG program and to send money back that was used for renderings.
The county has spent $186,377.18 of the grant and has $670,781.12 remaining to construct a four-bedroom, three-bath, 3,2100 squarefoot home to house four individuals.
The CDBG funds must be used to benefit low and moderate income households, aid in the prevention or elimination of slums and blight and meet other community development needs of an urgent nature, stated in the federal Housing Community Development Act of 1974.
“We’re here now and this is great, but I think how we got here was a mistake,” Moran said. “I think the planning that went into eight years and then what came about in the last few months of a situation with the homeless shelter and with this block grant and hands that got in there, it sickens me.”
Buckey said Chesterwye was a great organization, but the reason he voted against the organization moving into the property was because of a general housing issue throughout the county. Buckey said after discussions with the Housing Authority months ago and hearing about the “backup log,” he could not vote in favor of the property’s future use.
“There’s a lot of people that don’t have a place to live,” Buckey said. “There’s a waiting list, and we had this house sitting there that, again, could have been used for a singlefamily, a mother and father and kids and so forth.”
Commissioner Mark Anderson blamed the project falling through on Haven Ministries turning down the shelter MOU.
“This is an opportunity to build a state-of-the ar t facility for a great organization, one that has needs, and I think it is a useful purpose that we get the grant moved to take care of that need,” Anderson said. “We have support from the community, which did not exist for the other circumstance, and we have a need that we are supplying .... It sounds like a win-win to me.”
Clark said the signed resolutions to date have been sent to the Department of Housing and Community Development, which provided the grant, and are awaiting an approval letter. Once an approval letter is received the county can move forward to spend money from the grant on architectural drawings and engineering.
Clark said staff are keen to salvage some of the designs from the previously proposed project to be used in the current drawings to save money.
“We’re going to look at it like it’s a new project,” Clark said in reference to the previous property plans and the coinciding community input. “We’re just going to kind of start from whenever we get the award letter approval from Department of Housing and Community Development ... we’re going to just like kind of start a new project and move forward.”
County Administrator Gregg Todd said the county hopes to have building plans finalized and bids for construction completed by late summer or early fall.
Follow Mike Davis on Twitter: @ mike_kibaytimes.
County resident Sharon Harlow thanked the Chesterwye Center Inc. for its work in the community but raised concerns about housing problems in general throughout the county. Harlow said the property should be used as a homeless shelter.
Mike Ranelli, a Stevensville resident who was vocal about previous plans for the 325 State St. property, gave his approval of Chesterwye Center Inc. operating out of the facility.