Bates preservation advocate challenges Annapolis on planning


The president of a non-profit group fighting to save the Wiley H. Bates High School challenged the mayor of Annapolis last night to keep his promise and move ahead with renovating the dilapidated building.

Jean Creek, president of the Bates Foundation and head of the county branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, questioned whether the city has a plan to preserve the building, once home to Anne Arundel's only public high school for blacks.

"We believe that whole notion was smoke screen and mirrors," she said, turning to Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins. "The leadership is sorely in disrepair at this point."

Ms. Creek said the community is confused about plans for Bates. Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, also questioned why the City Council was not informed of the recent decision to reject a developer's proposal to sell his interest in the site for $740,000.

Leonard Frenkil had offered to help restore the school by building 86 town houses on the grounds. He had spent $400,000 on the project but could not proceed without a zoning change, which the city denied.

By turning down the offer, Mayor Hopkins has removed the city from negotiations over the 16-acre site. The City Council is considering a different zoning change that would permit converting the school into a community center and senior housing without significantly altering the land uses.

Alderman Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3, is working on a bill to create a so-called "overlay" zone for the former school but not jeopardize the land, which is within 1,000 feet of the headwaters of Spa Creek and designated by the state as a buffer near the Chesapeake Bay.

In January, the mayor and council voted down Mr. Frenkil's proposal to help pay for renovating the asbestos-riddled school by building the town houses. The city's two black aldermen, Mr. Gilmer and Carl O. Snowden, were the only ones who favored the plan, which enjoyed widespread support among the black community.

At the time of the vote, city leaders promised to come up with alternate government funding to pay for the project. Yesterday, Mr. Hopkins said he favored seeking grants from the state and federal government to renovate Bates rather than spend city taxpayers' money to buy out the developer.

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