Masons lend hands for Habitat duplex

June 22, 2004|by RYAN C. TUCK and JULIE E. GREENE

BOONSBORO - A foundation wall for half of Habitat for Humanity of Washington County's planned duplex grew approximately 1.5 feet in 15 minutes as volunteer bricklayers worked at a fast pace late Monday afternoon, pausing occasionally to ensure the wall was level.

Larry Miller, an experienced Habitat volunteer, said he thought volunteers could get the first foundation finished Monday night and possibly complete the foundation for the second half of the duplex on Wednesday - if enough bricklayers and other volunteers show up.

Miller said he knew the project faced some kind of legal deadline Thursday, but he was leaving the legalities to someone else.


"I'm focused on getting (the foundation) in," said Miller, 46, of Hagerstown.

After a full day of work Saturday with more than 30 volunteers providing services, food and even money, volunteers went back to work Monday at 4 p.m. with the help of professional masons, said Habitat's Executive Director Sherry Brown-Cooper.

The surge in construction began after the Boonsboro Town Council adopted an emergency ordinance on June 14.

The ordinance prohibits the construction of houses that front on alleys in the town.

The ordinance is to take effect Thursday night and could threaten Habitat's construction of a duplex, which is to face an alley off St. Paul Street.

Habitat's attorney, Roger Schlossberg, said the charity will be able to continue building if there is "substantial construction" before Thursday night.

If enough people don't show up to get the foundation completed by Wednesday night, Miller said he hopes it can be finished by Saturday.

Miller, who was a bricklayer before becoming a correctional officer 21 years ago, called on several bricklaying pals to lend the charity a hand.

They included two men who taught Miller the trade - Harold "Skip" Bowers and Kenny "Beetle" Bloyer.

This was Bowers' first Habitat project.

"Everybody should have a decent place to live ... This is just a small thing I can do," said Bowers, 51, of Hancock.

By Monday afternoon, some walls were 6 feet tall.

Some neighbors said the town should stop the construction.

Karen Shifler obtained a restraining order in Washington County Circuit Court on June 11. The restraining order to halt construction was vacated three days later by a different Circuit Court judge.

St. Paul Street resident Laura Howington said it was her opinion that allowing Habitat to continue building was breaking the law. She said that based on the eight to 10 neighbors to whom she had talked, the general consensus was that Habitat should build the duplex facing the street instead of the alley.

The first plan was for two single-family homes facing St. Paul Street but the town's zoning authority rejected that proposal, Brown-Cooper said. The planning commission on July 10, 2003, approved Habitat's subsequent plan for a duplex facing the alley.

Matt Protus, who with his wife Barbara owns both a house and the historic firehouse on St. Paul Street, said his concern is with parking in the "already-congested" alley.

"I just want to make sure the town works with the alley so it does not become a problem," Protus said.

Schlossberg said he doesn't anticipate that Habitat will have legal problems with the town after Thursday.

He said Shifler may proceed against Habitat with a "full airing of her complaint," but the ordinance will have "nothing to do as to us ... as long as there is substantial construction."

Howington called the situation "sad."

"I have no confidence in our local administration to let something like this happen," she said. "I have gone to meetings, my neighbors have gone to meetings, the process doesn't work."

"I don't think we are doing anything wrong here," Brown-Cooper said. "We're just trying to do what was already passed."

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