New sher­iff’s out­post, other facelifts planned

Aim is re­vi­tal­iza­tion of Lex­ing­ton Manor

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JAC­QUI ATKIELSKI jatkiel­ski@somd­news.com

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.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JAC­QUI ATKIELSKI

Jan­ice Walthour, St. Mary’s NAACP pres­i­dent, speaks about ed­u­ca­tion on Thurs­day at a com­mu­nity fo­rum.

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