Recycling Center Revisited
The Washington Post Southern Maryland Extra article, "Black Neighborhood Targeted For Industry, Residents Charge" (Aug. 29), allows for a multitude of interpretations and misconceptions regarding the proposed solid waste recycling and processing facility at the Stevenson farm in the Town Center of Lexington Park. Although the article is accurate, a little more information may help alleviate any misunderstandings.
It's understandable that my statement, "I wouldn't want to say this is a case of environmental racism but that's my concern" put the applicant, Morgan Wayson, owner of Hopkins & Wayson Building Construction, on the defensive. But when Wayson dismisses as "ludicrous" the suggestion of targeting of the mostly black neighborhood of Southampton, he further alienates his potential future neighbors. An explanation of my comment is in order.
It was not my intention to imply that the applicant is racist. Wayson, Hopkins & Wayson, and Rubble Bee [Recycling] are the inheritors of a development agenda steered by the economics of land values, the inequitable influence and representation of minorities, and the current tendency to ignore racial problems with the hope that somehow they will go away. Since environmental racism is mostly systemic and usually a product of many steps and actions, it is not necessary that it be the intention or the conscious agenda of the individual or business. One needs to look back at prior uses of the site and, specifically, look at when and how the industrial zoning for the property adjacent to an elementary school, two worship centers and a residential neighborhood was approved. Condoning and approving the Rubble Bee proposal, taken in the broader context including the property's history, could fit the standard definition of environmental racism. I do not doubt Wayson when he is quoted by The Post, "I didn't even know it was a black community." In this statement one can assume that Wayson never researched the neighborhood and is not concerned with how the neighborhood might welcome their operation.
Also The Post quoted President Roland Joun of the engineering company representing this applicant, stating that the Rubble Bee operation "is good for the environment" and "we're going to improve" this property. That is arguable. This operation is not good for Southampton, where noise and dust pollution will compromise the quality of life. As far as "improving," the site is currently a landfill possibly containing the toxins asbestos, copper, cadmium, petrochemicals and antifreeze. Joun may be on target if he plans to clean up this site (at an astronomical cost).
Rubble Bee could have been credible in their concerns for the environment and the neighborhood if they had researched and engaged the local citizens, checked into the prior use and history of this site, and studied county ordinances which prohibit solid waste facilities in the Town Center of Lexington Park.
Editor's note: Robert Lewis is a board member of the St. Mary's chapter of the NAACP and of the Potomac River Association, an environmental group.
Drainage Woes in Charles
I would like to thank you for providing us with Southern Maryland Extra on Sundays. I really like your paper. I would like to comment on the story "Rainfall Not Entirely Welcome in Waldorf" [Aug. 29]. The article by Hannah Allam is a typical response from the Department of Public Works in Charles County. [Department of Planning and Growth Management Director] Roy Hancock has once again blamed the homeowners or the business owners for the flooding here in Charles County. There would be no need for me to mention all the drainage problems in Charles County because the list would be so long that you would run out of paper. Speaking about Acton Lane, about those pipes that need to be cleaned out that were on the property of the hotel, I would put the blame on the Department of Public Works for poor planning. Their poor planning of water drainage in this area is so ridiculous that this problem is almost as old as the county. Since I lived here and my taxes have been raised as much as three times what they were when I first moved here, a phone call to DPW has resulted in responses such as: "We are understaffed." Or "What's the problem?" Or "We will send someone out (three months later they finally send someone out and results are always the same: It's the homeowner's problem and/or fault). Nothing has changed since I have lived here for 15 years. Many communities have open drainage ditches that always need upkeep. The question is: Is that the homeowners' responsibility or the DPW's?
Getting back to Acton Lane, I had just left the bowling alley that night and went down the side road behind the hotel (Econo Lodge). The water was coming down a new street from a construction site for town houses on Business Park Road into the back of the Econo Lodge and the other business places. I was surprised to see so much water and mud flowing down this new street from the town houses. The point that I am trying to make on Acton Lane is that there has been a lot of construction of new homes and town houses. Even though we know that the construction companies have to build a drainage system, the question is, who is approving them?
Last but not least, let's take one more point of consideration. Acton Lane runs into Garner Road. When will the Charles County and Prince George's County governments get off of their duffs and replace the dangerous one-lane bridge that always floods out with minimal rainfall. This has put residents at a dangerous inconvenience when traveling between the two counties for who knows how long. We have four months to the new millennium. How much longer must we wait for the county governments to fix the problem?
EDWARD M. SNIPES
Make Children Top Priority
As a recent resident (two years) of St. Mary's County, I chose to live here because I believe that some of the world's kindest, most loving people live in St. Mary's County. One has only to recall the $650,000 raised in the county to help pay medical bills for the Stouffer family to know how special St. Mary's County is.
I am having trouble reconciling this community kindness with the treatment of children's needs shown by the Planning Commission when it refused to allow a lack of school seats in the six-year Capital Improvements Plan to be the reason for disapproving a proposed subdivision. Suddenly I worry about our community. The Planning Commission's decision seems to indicate that the immediate profits of developers are more important than the excellence of our children's education.
Against 'Mystery Plan'
I attended the meeting concerning the "land swap" on Aug. 19 and took the opportunity to voice an opinion to the mayor and council members of Chesapeake Beach. Unfortunately, I am not a politician or public speaker, and stage fright while speaking interfered with my being able to clearly express the issues that I see as major concerns. One is the unknown. Mayor [Gerald] Donovan and other speakers referred to an area of land that will not be developed at this time, its future use "to be announced," should the swap be approved. I don't understand how people can be asked to support (and the willingness by many to support) a mystery plan. It feels like the old "Let's Make a Deal" game. Behind door No. 1 we have improved ballfields and increased parking, but you also have to take a chance on what's still hidden in the box.
Every opinion expressed at the meeting supported improvements to the children's ballfields and play areas. No one wants to deprive our children. The overriding concern was those future unknown improvements and their impact on our community.
My second concern is that our roads are already struggling to handle the volume of traffic that exists. Pedestrian traffic is prohibitive to many town residents due to safety issues. These arise from not only traffic volume but also the lack of sidewalks south of Fishing Creek. Many parents do not allow their children to walk to existing facilities, i.e. the library, community center, water park and ballfields. Walking in neighborhoods, along Old Bayside Road, down Route 261 to any of the above-named locations is not safe, yet you will see many young people along these roads on foot or bicycles. This is dangerous for both driver and child. A car struck a child just this week on Old Bayside, across from Beach Elementary.
Improvements to decrease traffic and increase safety should be the first concern. Improving existing ballfields will not increase traffic--that traffic already exists. Swapping land so that "future improvements" options can be left open, as suggested by our mayor, is a game that goes beyond what is best for our town and our children. We encourage the county commissioners to vote against the land swap.
ROBERT and ROSE HARTMAN
Curbing Youths' Smoking
As the Calvert County Tobacco Use Coordinator, it is mandated by the state that I visit tobacco merchants to educate about tobacco laws and to assess placement of tobacco products. Placing tobacco products behind the counter can prevent youth access.
I am pleased to report the majority of stores visited last year had posted the recommended "no underage smoking" signs at the door and cash register.
Of the stores visited, I want to commend the following stores for placing their tobacco products behind the counter out of casual reach: Mobil, Prince Frederick; Mobil, North Beach; Randle Cliff Market, Randle Cliff; Fox Run Liquors, Prince Frederick; Len's, Broomes Island; and Sunoco, St. Leonard.
NAACP Active in St. Mary's
The St. Mary's County Branch of the NAACP continues to make its presence in our community by getting involved where people need us the most. We are proud to announce a partnership with the Board of Education to launch the "Lend an Ear" program in our public schools this coming fall. Also the Year 2000 calendar project, in which the NAACP has secured the month of June, has gone to press and will be available for distribution in early September for a donation of $10 to the Unified Committee for Afro American Contributions. Our Branch participated in the "National Night Out" campaign this summer at St. Joseph's Recreation Center in Oakville. Most recently, our members attended a public meeting on the Rubble Bee construction recycling facility proposed for the Stevenson farm property in Carver Heights.
In taking an active role in St. Mary's County, the NAACP makes every attempt to be involved on a continuing basis in issues that pertain to human rights. We want everyone to know we are available and that is one reason why we attended and distributed soft drinks and water at the July 24th Jazz Festival. Drinks were donated to our Branch so we could also raise funds to support our cause. We would like to thank Raley's Town and Country Market, Burch Oil, and Mattingly Distributors for their donations and continuing support.
President, St. Mary's NAACP
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