Church leaders received a copy of Leggett's letter to Regency Centers early yesterday afternoon. They were told by Leggett's office that Regency had not replied to the letter as of yesterday, a full week later. On the one hand, this seems a bad move akin to a New York developer ignoring an urgent letter from Mayor Bill de Blasio. On the other hand, there has been a relentless urgency to move forward on the redevelopment of more than 20 acres of Regency Centers-owned property by the developer, the Planning Board and the County Council. It seems unlikely that Regency would want to enter mediation now, particularly as they can realistically feel that most of the County's corrupt elected officials are squarely behind them.
Councilmember Marc Elrich has been unable to get a substantial number of his colleagues to sign a letter he has planned to send to the Planning Board for the last week, asking the Board to table a June 9 agenda item on the Westwood Tower property. Elrich, the only councilmember to openly support the church over the last few months, said Tuesday he will send the letter by himself if his colleagues won't support it. Protesters touched base with Councilmember Tom Hucker yesterday, and Councilmember Craig Rice agreed to set up a meeting with church leaders in the coming days. Rice said he would not agree to sign Elrich's letter before that meeting takes place.
A previous letter from Leggett and Council President Roger Berliner pleading with the Planning Board to enter into mediation with the church, which was seeking to have two anthropologists of its choice oversee the private cemetery investigation firm hired by Regency Centers, was simply torn up and ignored by the Board. Instead, Planning Director Gwen Wright secretly gave Regency the go-ahead to hire their own investigative firm, The Ottery Group. Church officials have argued that study would not be considered legitimate, because there is no independent oversight, and the study is being paid for by Regency. "He who pays the piper," MBC Pastor Rev. Segun Adebayo has said, "calls the tune."
According to land records and obituaries, the cemetery has existed since the early 20th century. There is no record of any official relocation of remains from the graveyard, which was already desecrated once by construction workers during construction of Westwood Tower in the late 1960s. Now, Regency Centers and Montgomery County are proposing to build a parking garage on top of the graves.
Leggett's letter stresses that the church cannot agree to enter mediation until Regency Centers agrees to halt their own cemetery study, of which no details have been shared with the church or the public. It therefore is unknown what stage their investigation is at. He asks Regency to "let me know your position as soon as possible."
|Protesters speak with|
Councilmember Tom Hucker
|Councilmember Craig Rice (right)|
said a meeting with church
leaders would be possible in
the coming days