Despite Public Pleas, Protected Property Persists
Posted by Buzz Beeler on 26th May 2017
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This School is protected by a Historical Seal. Photo: The Dundalk Eagle

 

Historical Seal protects  school and large swath of Old Dundalk

It will take an act of Congress to bring this old school down

Former Norwood/Holabird Community President John Ayers was one of the last speakers at a rather contentious meeting held by Baltimore County officials and school board reps on whether to rebuild or refurbish the Dundalk Elementary School.  Until four years ago when he married and moved to Middle River, Ayers had spent his entire life residing in Dundalk. To say that he has a soft spot for Dundalk would be an understatement.

I have known John for almost 10 years, and he can be rather bombastic at times. But behind that booming voice is an ability to recall many historical events with an uncanny accuracy.

                                                                                     John Ayers

I will try to make this column as simple as I can; however, due to the multi-faceted issues surrounding the fate of the Dundalk Elementary School (DES), many facts presented here will be hyperlinked, just in case some folks doubt my words.

With that said, let me cut to the chase and give it to you straight.

At the meeting,  county and BCPS officials presented plans A, B, and C.  The first two (A&B) dealt with refurbishing the (and this is the key word) historical building, but that concept was met with loud vocal resistance from the large audience of parents, children, and teachers.

The audience made it clear that they wanted plan C, which dealt with building an entirely new school on the site and retaining part of the facade to honor the historical site. Some suggested a museum within the new school similar to the one found at Dundalk High School (DHS).

However, folks, these are two very different issues as you will see thanks to Mr. Ayers’ due diligence in his research.

The old DHS was demolished, and a brand new state-of-the-art high school was built.  But the old DHS was nothistorical building and did not require various levels of government agencies to get involved.

This is not the case with the DES.

Mr. Ayers sent the Post a mountain of documents dealing with this issue.  The links will spell out the impact of the building’s protected status under this seal, as well as what must be done to make any changes.

First, we have this link to the historical seal under which such designations are protected.

Then we have this quote from the DRC:

“Dundalk became a National Register Historic District in 1983.  It resulted from a historic town planning movement, and it embodies today’s Smart Growth principles.”

With that quote comes the following document about the Congressional law that protects these historical buildings:  36 CFR PART 800 — PROTECTION OF HISTORIC PROPERTIES (incorporating amendments effective August 5, 2004).

For those who were at that meeting, please don’t shoot the messenger. This has to do with Congress and the State of Maryland, not the Post.

To the parents, children, and teachers whose ideas were cast aside at this meeting, vent your anger directed toward Baltimore County and BCPS officials who, in my opinion, were disingenuous.  When contacted by phone, nobody had any comment. Rather,  I was referred to Mychael Dickerson’s office.

And we all know how conversations between Mr. Dickerson and the Post go.

In comments from the parents, children and teachers in the audience, issues dealing with the lack of AC, bathroom faculties and antiquated plumbing were constant reminders of the need for a new school.   This is one reason why the county and BCPS officials should have been more forthright in its presentation knowing the issues of this Historical Seal process.

Here are a few more facts regarding this issue. This document comes from the U.S. Department of the Interior and, although rather long, contains all of the dotted i’s and crossed t’s.

Here’s another quote regarding Section 106 on Historic Preservation:

“WHO ARE CONSULTING PARTIES? The following parties are entitled to participate as consulting parties during Section 106 review: Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; State Historic Preservation Officers; Federally recognized Indian tribes/THPOs; Native Hawaiian organizations; Local governments; and Applicants for federal assistance, permits, licenses, and other approvals. Other individuals and organizations with a demonstrated interest in the project may participate in Section 106 review as consulting parties “due to the nature of their legal or economic relation to the undertaking or affected properties, or their concern with the undertaking’s effects on historic properties.” Their participation is subject to approval by the responsible federal agency.”

With all of this said, where was our (AWOL) Councilman Todd “No Show” Crandell?  He should know the nuts and bolts regrding the county’s masterful bit of deception, but Councilman Crandell had no comment on this matter.

Then again, he tends to have no comment on a host of important issues in his district, such as the recent rash of school violence, or Trade Point Atlantic’s donations to his campaign and his bill that shuts out community involvement in what goes on down there.

Through it all, he remains AWOL.

In addition to the absence of our elected officials, there was a perplexing and somewhat disingenuous statement from the DRC’s Executive Director, Dr. Amy Menzer, who spoke on behalf of building a new school.  After reading the above quote,  one would think she might know the historical cultural impact this issue has on the heritage of Dundalk.

Think about this–a new elementary school costs somewhere in the neighborhood of $35 million. When asked about that hefty price tag, there was no response from BCPS or our elected officials.

That silence, folks, speaks volumes.

One final question has been raised by several people. With Logan Elementary being well over capacity, why not build a new school at that location, which is not protected by a historical seal?

Chew on that food for thought for a while…

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