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As deadline draws near

work on duplex continues

June 23, 2004|by RYAN C. TUCK

ryant@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - With the concrete still drying from Monday evening's work and thunderstorms threatening, Habitat for Humanity of Washington County volunteers returned Tuesday afternoon to continue building a controversial duplex on St. Paul Street in Boonsboro.

Twenty-four volunteers were on hand at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Despite a small thunderstorm, the group worked on the wall that will separate the two sides of the duplex.

David Nunamaker, 17, of Hagerstown, who just graduated from Boonsboro Christian Academy, was one of those on the job.

When asked about the controversy surrounding the project, he said some complaints were "understandable," but said, "I'm only here to help ... to do something good."

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Monday's team of 20 Habitat volunteers and four professional masons completed the concrete foundation on the right side of the duplex, said Sherry Brown-Cooper, Habitat for Humanity of Washington County's executive director.

Tuesday's group was focusing on finishing the foundation wall on the left side and the wall between the two houses of the duplex. Brown-Cooper said they hoped to finish those by tonight.

"These (volunteers) are to be admired," Brown-Cooper said. "Some work jobs all day and still come out to help us."

Habitat is in a race to construct as much on the site as possible before Thursday night, when an emergency ordinance the Boonsboro Town Council approved June 14 goes into effect.

Construction on the duplex originally was scheduled to begin in late June but that changed when the ordinance was adopted, Brown-Cooper said.

The ordinance prohibits construction of homes that do not front streets. Habitat's project faces an alley adjacent to St. Paul.

Roger Schlossberg, the attorney representing Habitat, said if "substantial construction" is completed before Thursday night, Habitat will have vested rights to the property and will be unaffected by the new law.

Brown-Cooper said Habitat has received support from some in the Boonsboro community and others. Little Caesar's of Hagerstown and Sheetz contributed food for the volunteers Tuesday.

"It's very satisfying to know that most of the residents support what we're doing," she said.

Some who live near the Habitat property have argued against the project.

The ordinance was passed after concerns over the property were expressed at a public hearing on the matter.

Lack of communication over the project prior to its approval, parking problems in the alley and the potential for street-access problems with a property so close to the alley's entrance were some of the most cited concerns.

Some volunteers came out to support the project after hearing about the residents' complaints and the new ordinance.

"I thought it was unjust to (pass this ordinance) at the last minute," said Jeff Ott, 20, of Hagerstown. "Obviously (council members) have never been homeless. Maybe if they were they'd have more compassion."

He said he was volunteering as a way of protesting while doing something good.

Joedy Isert, the director of public relations for Habitat International, said that organization understands there may be neighborhood complaints with Habitat projects, but that the creation of affordable housing is the first priority.

"We ask that people keep in mind that there are too many people out there that live in situations that we cannot tolerate ... that we should not accept," he said.

As rain fell Tuesday, first-time volunteer Sam Cooper, of Hagerstown, leaned against a garage next to Carroll Earp, of Hagerstown, and asked, "what is this Habitat all about?"

Earp said Habitat helps provide houses for those who may not be able to afford them on their own.

"I think that's great," Cooper said. Seeing that the rain had stopped, he took off his shirt and went back to stacking blocks.

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