• Rev. Joel L. Tolbert

They Have a Dream

The last two weeks, I've spent two very late evenings sitting in the hallway outside the packed Council Room as the Kent County Planning and Zoning Commission has heard legal testimony and arguments for or against Minarys Dream Alliance buying the American Legion building.


If you want to know more about MDA, check out their website:

Minary's Dream Alliance (minarysdreamalliance.org)

To know more about the opposition, this article from the Spy is a decent starting point:

Hearing on the Fate of Minary’s Dream Adjourned until Next Week (chestertownspy.org)


MDA is a new mission partner of our church. Our Missions committee looked at MDAs history and vision and chose to activate funds from the discretionary section of our budget to support MDA. They have a dream of feeding people, helping kids, and bringing equity.


The core argument against MDA buying the property is based on zoning. The property is in a residential area by the current county plan but has had an exemption for the American Legion's use since the beginning of zoning in the 1960s. Now, the Legion is selling the property to MDA for similar but not identical use, and the neighborhood is asking the commission to disallow the sale and revert the property back to residential.


The lawyers have wandered downs paths about traffic, lights, non-profits, developers, access to the waterway, utilities, sewage and septic, property rights, neighborhood rights, counseling, support groups, noise, blood drives, alcohol sales, fundraising, ball fields, addiction treatment, and building and grounds maintenance. I've listened as lawyers have debated the minutiae of the law arguing whether zoning exemptions allow permitted uses of a property to change and evolve over time, or if they are only allowed the events and uses they were originally granted, in the 1960s mind you.


Then I thought... wait... our church was once zoned residential. We sit on what was once six residential lots. We were granted a zoning exemption on three of them, where the garden and building and parking lot now sit, 901, 905, and 909 Gateway Drive. The three lots across the street, 902, 906, and 910 Gateway Drive are also church but are still zoned residential.


Should the Zoning and Planning commission also block us? We have changed how we do church over the last 36 years. We have seen outside groups use our building for a while, then leave. We have changed the traffic for the neighborhood and added lights. We have welcomed addicts of alcohol onto the campus for encouragement and support in their struggle. We have held food drives and blood drives. We have welcomed children from the community onto the property for VBA and trick or treat and the Remote Learning Hub. If we wanted to start a preschool, would we get blocked? If we wanted to let the YMCA use our back lots as ball fields for young children, would we get sued?


Today, as you pray, would you consider praying for the Americal Legion and all its current and former and future members? Pray we no longer need independent non-profit organizations like the Legion to support our veterans, and our military and government might fully honor promises to our veterans and families. Would you pray for Minarys Dream Alliance, all its staff and volunteers, and those they serve? Pray one day MDA can happily close its doors because everyone is fed and educated, and treated with love and justice. Would you pray for the Chesmar Neighborhood Association? Pray they have a wonderful beautiful relationship with their new neighbors and find themselves donating and signing up to volunteer at MDA in the years ahead.

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