New sheriff’s outpost, other facelifts planned
Aim is revitalization of Lexington Manor
Improvements are scheduled to be made for the Lexington Park community, including a new sheriff’s station and plans for the continued revival of the former Lexington Manor “Flattops” area into a park.
The St. Mary’s chapter of the NAACP hosted Thursday a community forum at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center in California to share information about topics including improvements planned for Lexington Park, affordable housing, education and other topics.
Viki Volk, president and CEO of the St. Mary’s County Community Development Corp., said at the meeting that commercial property values are dropping due to a perceived lack of law enforcement in the Lexington Park area.
She said her organization has pushed for a road extension in the Colony Square neighborhood behind the Lexington Park library, which should “provide easier law enforcement patrol to the community to reduce crime.
“Crime reduction increases
property value,” she said.
She said there are plans to turn the Lexington Manor property into a park, which includes clearing low-hanging trees and other brush, installing lighting and more for a pedestrian and bike trail between Willows Drive and Coral Drive in Lexington Park. Currently, there is a disc golf course and limited amenities in the area adjacent to John G. Lancaster Park.
Volk said other improvements that can help with property values in the area include cheaper and more accessible water and sewer services, garbage collection and better maintained roads.
“Infrastructure is what government can do to restore and increase property value,” she said.
She said one thing missing from the area is a 24hour, full-staffed sheriff’s station.
“This needs to be our No. 1 priority. … Until people feel safe in Lexington Park, it’s going to be very difficult to attract investment or visitors,” she said.
Commissioner Mike Hewitt (R) said he and the other commissioners “are on this. I don’t know why you’re so negative about it.”
Hewitt’s opponent, Democrat Rose Frederick, was also at the meeting. Hewitt, who was on the forum’s panel, asked Frederick to join him at the table.
Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said the request for proposal for the additional sheriff’s station is “due to go out … in the next 35 to 45 days. And we want this damn thing done.”
He said highest elevated area on Great Mills Road is at the Church of the Ascension, and “right next door is where the sheriff’s station is going.”
Volk said “that’s very good news … it’s been talked about since the 1990s and every plan we’ve developed. So kudos to you.”
In other business, Morgan said there are multiple tiers to the issue of offering more affordable housing across the county, not just in Lexington Park.
He said “there is more Section 8 housing in St. Mary’s” than Calvert or Charles counties.
He said the multi-family units like Queen Anne Park Apartments have “been shoved into Lexington Park” due to a lack of infrastructure in other portions of the county.
Morgan said “as a Lexington Park guy,” he’s tired of the negative attitudes people have about the area because the majority of the affordable housing is in his district.
“We’re not improving, we’re degrading. And my goal is to improve,” he said, adding later that “it hurts us all” to contain affordable housing to one portion of the county.
He said he thought affordable housing should be available from Mechanicsville “to the south, east [and] west.”
State Senate Democratic candidate Thomas Brewer asked Morgan if transportation would be expanded if affordable housing opportunities were spread out around the county. Republican state Senate candidate Jack Bailey was not at the meeting.
Morgan said he would ask the question “what is the cart and what is the horse.” He said federal funding limits what commissioners can do to offer transportation to the community.
He gave an example of public transportation stopping “three-fourths of a mile” past the Great Mills Road and Flat Iron Road area because “transportation stops because that’s where your federal funding stops.”
Dennis Nicholson, St. Mary’s County housing authority director, said “low income is not a stigma.” He said housing “is an investment product” and that there should be a range of housing available to people no matter their income level.
He said housing authority representatives are working on the “crumbling infrastructure” in the Lexington Park area. Many of the multi-family apartments like Queen Anne Park Apartments were built between the 1970s and 1980s and are starting to “decay.”
Education was also discussed at Thursday’s meeting. Janice Walthour, St. Mary’s NAACP president, said the chapter is working with public school staff to hire and retain more “teachers of color,” currently at 6 percent in local public schools.
She said “rising tides raise all boats,” and a public education prepares students “to be a contributing member of a democracy.”
Janice Walthour, St. Mary’s NAACP president, speaks about education on Thursday at a community forum.