A hoop house and greening project built in the rear of the Academy for College and Career Exploration's building has raised the ire of some nearby neighbors.
During a sometimes tense Hampden Community Council meeting Monday night, some residents called the hoop house and green space a mosquito breeding ground, argued that it violates fire regulations and that the school removed parking spaces and didn’t replace them.
"We have kept our agreement," said Quinhon Goodlowe, A.C.C.E.’s principal.
Staff at the school, and their partners in developing the green space, such as Blue Water Baltimore, argued they followed the city’s process attaining permits to rip up the asphalt that was behind the school and building the hoop house.
Goodlowe said that she has met with the fire department twice, and that she was told there's not a problem with fire safety at the school. One of the supporters said during the meeting, the only concern about fire is from threats residents have made to burn down the hoop house, a greenhouse with a plastic roof built over flexible piping.
Supporters also pointed out that they removed 16 parking spots on school property to build the hoop house, and made 16 other spots elsewhere on school grounds.
But those assurances were not enough for some residents.
John Hare, who lives directly across from the hoop house on BerryStreet, said the asphalt in the rear of the building shouldn’t have been allowed to be ripped up because it prevents fire engines from being able to get access to the back of the building.
"So you put all these students in danger so you can have fruit trees," Hare said during the meeting.
Lt. Derrick Ready, a fire inspector with the Baltimore Fire Department, attended the meeting and said he sent one of his fire inspectors to the school after the department-received complaints about the hoop house and access to the building.
"I asked my inspector one thing: 'Will my children be safe?' And the inspector said 'yes,'" Ready said.
But Ready told residents he would personally inspect the school on Tuesday to make sure he is satisfied that fire trucks have access to all sides of the building if a fire breaks out.
The greening of the school began in July 2011, when Gov. Martin O’Malley and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake visited students who were beginning the greening of the school grounds as part of the YouthWorks summer job program. Later that month, volunteers from the Vans Warped Tour, Blue Water Baltimore, students and city employees dug up the asphalt and stone aggregate behind the school to build green space and an outdoor class room.
In October 2012 the mayor joined students at A.C.C.E. to plant a tree in the community garden to celebrate National Food Day, and to highlight actions taken by the city to increase resident’s access to fresh food.
Clarification: Despite statements by members made at the Hampden Community Council meeting, Baltimore Free Farm is not involved with A.C.C.E.'s greening and hoop house project.