Monday, May 01, 2017

Church to march again Tuesday, releases demands for Westbard cemetery mediation

Macedonia Baptist Church and their supporters in the community will march for a second Justice Tuesday tomorrow, Tuesday, May 2, 2017 at 11:30 AM in front of the Montgomery County Council Building, located at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville. They are protesting the plan by developer Regency Centers and Montgomery County to build a parking garage on top of an African-American cemetery on the Westwood Tower property in Bethesda.

Despite internally acknowledging the cemetery's location, and that there was no evidence that remains were ever legally removed from the graveyard, the Planning Department covered up this and other information related to the cemetery during the Westbard sector plan process. As a result, the public - and even the Planning Board initially- were not fully informed about the cemetery at the time when public comment was being allowed on the plan. Once the Planning Board and County Council were aware of the cemetery, they doubled down on institutional racism, and have backed the developer and Planning Department officials.

Church leaders have sought to have qualified, independent observers participate in the developer-funded cemetery investigation. County Executive Ike Leggett suggested a mediator resolve the impasse with the Planning Department, which dismissed the two anthropologists suggested by the church. It later was revealed that Leggett knew that Planning Director Gwen Wright had already secretly given Regency Centers the go-ahead to start a cemetery investigation. At that point, mediation was no longer relevant. The results of a secret investigation funded by the developer would by necessity be tainted.

Last Thursday, church leaders and attorney Michele Rosenfeld met again with Leggett, and have released a list of demands going forward:

"A fair and equitable mediation process must start with agreement on the following issues:
 
1. The parallel process Montgomery County has been engaged in must stop. The Montgomery County Planning Department must cease and desist from proceeding with the Ottery Group investigation of the Bethesda Africa Cemetery and any and all contractual agreements between Ottery and the applicant (Equity One aka Regency Group) must be terminated.
       1a. Qualified team (e.g., minimally composed of a register of professional archaeologists (RPA) archaeologist, ethnographer who                                 specializes in African-American culture and a historian who specializes in African-American history) will be retained to complete all                                   specialist studies of the properties. The research team will be selected from academic institutions or the private sector. 
2. The Planning Board, the County Council, the Regency Group and Macedonia Baptist Church must respect the outcome of the mediation process.
 
3. The mediation process must result in a binding General Development Agreement (GDA) and a binding Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for all involved parties.
 
4. The existing sketch plan must be stayed until the GDA and CBA agreements listed in item 3 above are finalized in the cemetery mediation.
 
5. Moderately priced homes will not be BUILT on the African Burial Ground but moved to other sites, including but not limited to the Giant Westbard Shopping Center site.
 
6. [Planning Director] Gwen Wright will not participate in the mediation and will have no further involvement in the Bethesda African Cemetery project.
 
7. A commission will be established with Macedonia Baptist Church having equal status with the County in determining how former African residents of River Road will be compensated for the loss of their homes, properties and the economic futures that could reasonably have been derived therefrom, and determine reasonable market value compensation for those former African residents for the land, homes, properties and economic future they lost through coercion and/or other spurious means."

Leggett has not yet publicly responded to the demands.

26 comments:

Roald said...

What the church leaders are requesting seems reasonable to me.

I'm really interested in what comes out of the further exploration of the community's history.

Let's give these folks some relief and reassurance.

Anonymous said...

Dyer, stop using this as a tool in your protest to keep westbard a low-rise dump. We all know you wouldn't care about the cemetery if it didn't help your nimby agenda!

Robert Dyer said...

6:41: I've been talking about the cemetery since 2011 at the Planning Board, County Council and NCPC. The County neglected Westbard for 40 years - now you're suddenly in a mad rush to redevelop? Please.

Don't try to normalize the institutional racism of the County Council and Planning in Montgomery County. You're trying to profit from the community built up by both the original African-American community, and the later residents, while desecrating a black cemetery for the second time in 50 years, and you want to call other people the bad guy?

Give me a break!

Anonymous said...

1) Just who do you think @6:41AM is?

2) You're wrong.

Anonymous said...

I am glad that the Macedonia Baptist Church has called for a stop to the current cemetery contract as a condition of mediation. Mediation is meaningless in the absence of a clean slate. If Montgomery County and Equity One/Regency Centers are sincere about mediation, they will agree to this condition.

Anonymous said...

more temper tantrums. pull out your own wallets. The property has been purchased and the current owner is not responsible but is still going to dig up the bones and relocate them.

Anonymous said...

@ 6:41 AM: Even those who favor the Regency/Equity One development plan should be concerned about Montgomery County's treatment of the cemetery:

1. It is profoundly disrespectful to ignore the possible presence of a cemetery in creating an area master plan, as well as bad planning practice.

2. The Planning Department did not publicly acknowledge the cemetery's existence until after the County Council had approved the Westbard sector plan. Hiding material information from the public is unethical, even if it is not prohibited under County regulations.

3. The County offered to mediate the terms of the cemetery study, but did not reveal that a contract for the study had been signed and the investigation begun. This is dealing in bad faith.

I object to having my tax dollars spent in support of such poor conduct. In no way is this acceptable or transparent.


Anonymous said...

@8.20 AM: The current owner of the property (Regency Centers/Equity One) *is* responsible for resolving the cemetery issue. Two items are important in this context:
1. Maryland law, which requires that the developer conduct an archaeological study and rebury any remains.
2. Development risk. Just because a property has been purchased for development doesn't guarantee that it can be redeveloped as desired. Proponents of the free market value return, but tend not to recognize that return is linked to risk assumption.

Anonymous said...

@8.20 AM: The current owner of the property (Regency Centers/Equity One) *is* responsible for resolving the cemetery issue. Two items are important in this context:
1. Maryland law, which requires that the developer conduct an archaeological study and rebury any remains.
2. Development risk. Just because a property has been purchased for development doesn't guarantee that it can be redeveloped as desired. Proponents of the free market value return, but tend not to recognize that return is linked to risk assumption.

Anonymous said...

@8.20 AM: The current owner of the property (Regency Centers/Equity One) *is* responsible for resolving the cemetery issue. Two items are important in this context:
1. Maryland law, which requires that the developer conduct an archaeological study and rebury any remains.
2. Development risk. Just because a property has been purchased for development doesn't guarantee that it can be redeveloped as desired. Proponents of the free market value return, but tend not to recognize that return is linked to risk assumption.

Anonymous said...

@8:39 here. Sorry about the multiple postings-- site glitch.

Roald said...

8:39 AM Agreed...there's a planning process underway...buying a property doesn't guarantee being able to maximize every square inch for profit. Planning Board has to weigh community impacts and interests as well!

Everyone should agree on what the church leadership is proposing. No need for a rush to judgement.

Anonymous said...

Who owns the land? That should be the only question asked.

Anonymous said...

Dyer's cemetery precinct. LOL

Anonymous said...

"Everyone should agree on what the church leadership is proposing. No need for a rush to judgement."

My G-d, you're a moron. LOL

Anonymous said...

9:14: Sounds like you abhor the very idea of planning or zoning. Good luck with that. It would be rough justice if the properties on the block where your home is situated were bought and developed around you for an incompatible use.

Anonymous said...

11:05 AM Exactly. If an owner could do whatever they wanted, there would be no planning or zoning.
They'd simply start construction....Why even have permits? You own the land, you should be able to do what you want...lol. :)

Anonymous said...

@10:54: Your rude comment leads me to make the same judgment of you. You sound like a poorly brought up elementary school student. Great to disagree, bad to name call. If that's all you've got, better to fold.

Anonymous said...

The owner of the property has agreed to investigate the site. Stop being such paranoid creeps! The bones, if they exist, will be moved. Go protest the previous owner for this action if you're so inclined. People die and our bodies go to the earth. Go protest the real injustices going on now with respect to race and tragedy in this county - check out the drug dealing and prostitution going on in Germantown and do something about it. What a bunch of babies. There is always an angle and this church, most of whom are from out of the neighborhood, are looking to setup a museum so they won't have to get real jobs. THE END.

Anonymous said...

3:59pm didn't bother with dog whistles, he went full racist claiming Germantown is infested with drug dealers and prostitutes.
And the church is just looking for cash so they "won't have to get real jobs".

Wow...Keep this up and our councilman may hire you as a speechwriter!

Anonymous said...

It's not racist. There is major crime against black folks in Germantown. Yet these so called people of God are concerned about bones and museums. They are the ones calling anyone who disagrees with them racist. Repeating that doesn't make it true. It's just a desperate way i lashing out.

Robert Dyer said...

6:09: This is actually standard talk for these folks in the Montgomery County cartel. They're allied with, and some write for Greater Greater Washington, a propaganda blog for developers.

On GGW, you will regularly find both "dog whistles" and overt hate speech against black residents and black churches in the District.

There was an article about bike lanes that would displace critical parking spaces for a black church in a rapidly gentrifying area in D.C. Of course, the church was opposed to the latest effort to push blacks out of the District, and their church being forced out.

Not only did GGW cast the black church as the villain, but the same folk who are paid to attack "NIMBYs" posted anonymous comments saying the black church members were "too fat and too lazy" to walk from parking much farther away.

Sound familiar?

They are stone cold racists. And therefore probably are in line for a job with our racist County Council.

Robert Dyer said...

7:16: Whatever crime there is is the fault of the County Council for pretending we don't have a gang problem. Respect for the dead is a major tenet of most civilized people. Without it, you are aligning yourself with the Talibans and ISIS maniacs of the world.

A corporation cannot purchase the bodies of the first generation of free blacks in Montgomery County.

Anonymous said...

Dyer the Whitey is playing the Race Card again.

Anonymous said...

A lily-white dude is telling me what's racist.
There are no words.

Anonymous said...

Yes let's use our money and time and other resources to compensate the church who is claiming to be descended from these people. Ridiculous. These church people were not elected to office. They don't deserve equal standing to the county. What a bunch of bats.