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Habitat meeting arouses emotions

June 18, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

BOONSBORO

scottb@herald-mail.com

That there are differing opinions about Habitat for Humanity of Washington County's plans to build a duplex in Boonsboro was evident Thursday during an informational meeting held by the nonprofit organization.

Sherry Brown Cooper, Habitat for Humanity of Washington County's executive director, said she was not holding Thursday's meeting to debate whether it was a good idea to build the duplex that would front on an alley off St. Paul Street.

"I am not going to argue. We are not going to agree on this matter," she said.

"Then why are you here?" asked John W. Shifler, who lives near the site where Habitat wants to build the duplex.

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Cooper said she was there to tell Boonsboro residents about Habitat for Humanity's programs and practices.

"We know what you do," said Karen Shifler, John Shifler's wife.

Cooper's presentation was interrupted by the Shiflers and others who asked questions and made remarks about the site choice and configuration.

For example, Cooper said the best configuration was for the duplex to face the alley.

"You should not have bought the lot," Karen Shifler responded. "That was a poor executive decision."

When Cooper mentioned that one of the two families who will move into the duplex currently lives in an apartment with a leaky roof, one woman suggested it would make more sense for Habitat for Humanity to fix the roof than to build a new house.

After the meeting Cooper said she had hoped for a non-confrontational meeting, but was not surprised at what transpired.

About 30 people attended the meeting at Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. Some were Boonsboro residents, others were Habitat for Humanity volunteers.

Cooper said she organized the meeting before learning about the Boonsboro Town Council's plans to adopt an emergency ordinance prohibiting new homes from fronting on alleys.

The council passed the ordinance Monday and it will take effect on June 24. It remained unclear how the law would affect the Habitat project.

A Washington Circuit Court judge on June 11 granted Karen Shifler a temporary restraining order blocking Habitat for Humanity from starting construction. That order was vacated by another judge on Monday.

While some Boonsboro residents, including the Shiflers, have opposed the project, others - including some who live near the property - have stepped forward to help volunteers with their work, Cooper said.

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