Johns Hopkins Professor Phyllis Piotrow wanted to sell her brick five-bedroom house next to Hillmead Park in Bethesda, Maryland and retire to New Hampshire.
She had been hoping to sell her house with 1.3 acre lot to a developer, but Montgomery County fought development plans until the real estate market softened, then cajoled Piotrow into selling the property for a below-market price of $2.5 million to be incorporated into the neighboring park.
Then, somebody had an idea, as Marc Fisher reports in the Washington Post, 6/8:
The parks commission had planned to demolish Piotrow’s 1930s house, at a cost of about $65,000. Instead, staffers at Montgomery’s housing agency wondered, why not spend about twice the cost of demolition to renovate Piotrow’s five-bedroom place and use it to house a large (mother with 13 children -DZ) homeless family? After all, finding housing for large families is notoriously difficult, the county already shells out about $100,000 a year to keep a homeless family in a motel and at least six other houses in county parks are being used in similar fashion.
You will not be shocked to learn that the good people of Montgomery County thought this a very poor idea.
The same Marc Fisher recycles the same story into a blog editorial with a title which wonders indignantly: Is This House Too Nice for the Homeless?
(I mean, really, what kind of person could possibly think that?)
Residents of the Hillmead neighborhhood evidently could, and did, think un-PC, uncharitable thoughts.
As the Montgomery County Council put the finishing touches on a $2.5 million plan to buy more land for a Bethesda park, council member Nancy Floreen lobbed what has turned out to be the equivalent of a neighborhood cluster bomb:
Why not house a needy family in the 1930s-era home on the property in the Hillmead neighborhood and expand the park at the same time? …
Residents of Hillmead, a leafy community about three miles from downtown Bethesda with small Cape Cods and large McMansions selling for more than $1 million, say they only recently learned of the county’s plans and think officials did a poor job of keeping them informed. …
The Hillmead residents insist that their opposition does not stem from antipathy to poor people. Those leading the fight say it’s a debate about how the county chooses to spend its $4 billion budget in tough economic times, and about due process for communities. …
“This really isn’t about having a homeless family living in a house that is bigger than probably 90 percent of the houses in the neighborhood,” said Brett Tularco, a developer who lives in the neighborhood and has offered to tear down the house to save the county the expense. “Our kids are going to school in trailers and then this homeless family would be living in a $3 million estate. That money could have been spent on housing tons of people instead of one family.”
He said he is also worried about public safety if the homeless family moves on and the county then uses the house to shelter mentally ill residents or drug abusers.
“That really isn’t who we want our kids playing next to,” he said.
Councilmember Nancy Floreen’s website