A transition home for low-income, single mothers and their children in a Pikesville convent moved closer to reality yesterday with a favorable decision by Baltimore County's zoning commissioner.
The facility was proposed by Innterim Housing, a nonprofit organization, to house families for 18 months to three years. The mothers, generally 25 to 35 years old, would receive skills training and education so they can become self-sufficient while living with their children.
Lawrence E. Schmidt, the county zoning commissioner, approved the St. Charles convent at 110 Sudbrook Lane for use as a community-residential facility, with restrictions. Those opposed to his decision have 30 days to appeal, but the community appears to be in agreement.
The convent would be bought with $367,000 in federal community block grant funds. The convent proposal is expected to be approved by the County Council Tuesday.
Pikesville Councilman Melvin Mintz said the zoning decision assured his vote for the proposal. Mr. Mintz had reserved judgment earlier this week when asked about his stand on the facility, saying he didn't want to influence the zoning decision.
"Now that the decision has been made, I'll be real happy to vote for it," the 2nd District Democrat said.
A $150,000 federal grant to renovate the property is already available. "It's wonderful news," said Gerry Compston-Buchanan, vice president of Innterim Housing, which was incorporated in October 1991. "It will help us to restructure their lives so they will be able to re-enter society as a family."
Ms. Compston-Buchanan said the group hopes to begin operation Dec. 1 with seven to 10 mothers and their children. The program is limited to Baltimore County residents. Referrals would come from charitable organizations and the county social services department.
L "We expect to have 23 to 27 residents altogether," she said.
The Pikesville Township Association originally had reservations about the proposal and asked for restrictions on the property, which Mr. Schmidt agreed to in his ruling.
The association was concerned that the door would be open to uses other than those stated in the Innterim Housing proposal.
Mr. Schmidt's decision prohibits the property's use as an emergency shelter for the homeless, a halfway house for alcoholics or drug users, for anyone in any penal program, or for the mentally disturbed.
"I'm very pleased that Mr. Schmidt was sensitive to our requests," said Rebecca Seidman, president of the Pikesville Township Association. "The facility should be very useful under those conditions."
Three nuns who live in the 10,000-square-foot, two-story convent will be relocated, according to Rev. E. Joseph Cote, pastor of St. Charles Roman Catholic Church. The convent, St. Charles School, and the church are next to one another.
"I'm happy that the building will be used in service to the community," he said. "There's nothing quite like their idea around."