Attempts by a group of Northeast residents to temporarily stop the Bureau of Rehabilitation's plans to open a halfway house at 4301 Harewood Rd. NE apparantly have been successful.
Responding to community protests and a disavowal of the proposed program by the D.C. Department of Corrections, the Municipal Planning Office has revoked an occupancy permit that would allow the Bureau of Rehabilitation to open a residential halfway house for male and female ex-offenders across the street from Archbishop Carroll High School.
The bureau, a private United Way-sponsored agency, is seeking to purchase the home for $850,000 from the present owners, the Holy Cross Mission Society. The 50-year-old bureau runs three other halfway houses in the area, which Executive Director Harry Manley said are staffed with professionals and are fully accredited. His agency has until mid-January to raise the money for the Harewood facility.
Ben Gilbert, director of MPO, said the occupancy permit had been granted with the belief that the D.C. Department of Corrections had a contract with the bureau to run a particular type of program.
Gilbert said the bureau had submitted a contract from the D.C. Corrections Department with its application. MPO later learned from a newspaper article that 90 men and women were to live in the halfway house, Gilbert said. "We called D.C. Corrections about it and they said that was not their program and they had no interest in it."
Gilbert said a letter from the D.C. Corrections Department stating its disinterest in the program has been filed with the licensing office. If the bureau wants to apply for a license on the basis of having a federal contract, it will now have to go to the Board of Zoning and Adjustment, Gilbert said.
A recent D.C. Zoning Commission action banned the establishment during the next 120 days of group homes for more than 30 people. The commission took action after hearing a community plea from Norman Neverson, an Advisory Neighborhood commissioner in the Harewood area.
At the time Neverson presented his appeal, the license issued to the bureau was still considered to be valid.
On Friday, D.C. Superior Court Judge George H. Revercomb, who was unaware of MPO actions taken last Thursday, granted Neverson, a temporary restraining order to prevent the bureau from using the permit it had been granted several weeks ago.
Neverson requested the restraining order, which is effect until Jan. 5, on the grounds that ANC representatives in the Harewood Road area had not been given 30 days advance notice of the bureau plans as required.
A hearing on the case has been scheduled for Jan. 4. Neversaon said Northeast residents will obtain legal counsel to present their case.
Despite the setbacks, bureau director Manly said he hasn't lost hope that the halfway house will open.
"I think we can counteract that (Corrections Department) letter," Manly said. He said the bureau's attorney also would challenge the action taken by MPO because the bureau had presented valid local and federal government contracts with its application.