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The Zone Wars

I would like to thank Ed Ericson [Jr.] for his article “Forbidden Zone” (Mobtown Beat, Feb. 9, 2011).

As president of the Douglass Place Neighborhood Association, I want to clarify a few issues so that the readership has a better understanding of our struggle with the Beans and Bread expansion. First, this is their third expansion in our neighborhood and it is no longer the community soup kitchen that we have supported in the past. It is now poised to become a behemoth institution working for the city and serving clients city-wide, adding to Beans and Bread’s current 400-per-day client base.

Due to the scope and size of the proposed expansion, state officials and residents have suggested that Beans and Bread be moved to St. Vincent de Paul’s current property on Central Avenue. It’s vacant, it’s more than adequate for their needs, and unlike Douglass Place, it’s not residentially zoned. St. Vincent de Paul refuses to talk about it or consider it as a viable alternative.

Additionally, St. Vincent de Paul has broken its trust with the community. Douglass Place residents, including myself, supported Beans and Bread’s second expansion, which allowed them to obtain zoning approval and build adjacent to residential properties. Promises made to the community in an effort to garner our support for this expansion were subsequently broken with no action being taken in regard to our reasonable concerns.

St. Vincent de Paul is an organization that asserted to state officials that it “would not be dictated to by the residents,” falsely claimed they had our support to funders and to state and city officials, and walked out of mediation intended to resolve a number of issues. In fact, St. Vincent de Paul took all design issues off the table during mediation, issues we subsequently fought for and won.

Furthermore, against community wishes, St. Vincent de Paul demolished the warehouse they purchased for the expansion without any approved plans or building permits in place, leaving a quarter of a residential street barren. This has further decreased our property values and left several homes around the vacant lot unsalable and unrentable, which is resulting in a major reduction in assessments and a large loss in property taxes to the city.

From the beginning, we were told by John Schiavone, the Executive Director of St. Vincent de Paul, that he had the support of the Mayor and that the expansion was guaranteed at zoning. And so we feel we have a better chance taking this case out of Baltimore to the Court of Special Appeals. It’s telling that the very judge who denied our zoning appeal has granted us a stay. In other words, Judge Miller must think we have grounds to win at the State level.

Deirdre Hammer

Just Say Boh

Let’s face it, National Bohemian is a putrid beer. So Baltimore goes into a contrived “BohFest” at the so-called news that some local bars served the froth from kegs for the first time in years (Baltimore Weekly, Feb. 2).

Sometimes I think Baltimoreans will celebrate barnacles forming on the hulls of the boats moored in the harbor. We look for anything and everything to celebrate.

About 20 years ago the rage was a Mexican beer sold in clear bottles with a lime to mask the taste. As I look around now, all the kids are drinking Natty Boh in Fells Point bars. Come on—cheap, yes, but quality beer?

I could see getting all giddy in the pants if the stuff was still brewed locally, but it’s shipped in from North Carolina. That’s a long way from Brewers Hill.

I just keep in mind that they’re young and they’ll try anything once. Alas, this too shall pass.

Patrick R. Lynch
Nottingham, MD

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