(UPDATED) 3:10 p.m.—In an email to congregants of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, Rev. Heber Brown III questions the future of his church in North Baltimore.
In the email Brown (who recently started a blog on Patch) mentions redevelopment plans in the neighborhood, and links to an article about renovations at the Senator Theatre. He writes: "some are eyeing the property all around our church as potential parking for the expansion of the local businesses."
Brown also accuses Councilman Bill Henry of "dropping suggestions" the church move from its current location at 450 E. Belvedere Ave.
He quotes Henry as telling Pleasant Hope leaders during a meeting in August about the church’s concerns as saying "Oh, you want clout. In that case, clout equals money."
Henry said that Brown was using his statement out of context and that the comment was made in response to a question about money, and the role it plays in the church acquiring a nearby parcel of land.
"That was taken out of context and was in response to a money based question," Henry said.
Brown explains that the church has been dealing with the city to purchase a 30-foot by 60-foot plot of land along the church’s garden, which it uses to grow produce it donates to local food shelters, so that it can expand its garden and its "ministry."
But Brown claims that Henry, at the behest of local businesses, is trying to block that purchase because they want to add more parking for the Belvedere Square across York Road. He goes on to claim that the businesses may even want to get rid of the church so its land could be used as parking.
He said that is particularly troubling for the church because the parking lot behind the church that is used on Sundays isn’t even the church’s property, and that they pay Jerry’s Belvedere Tavern for the use of that lot.
"Pleasant Hope is already boxed in on every side. We’re landlocked and if redevelopment plans are fully realized, our box may get even tighter," Brown writes in his email.
Henry denied that he was taking any side in acquiring the land near the church. He said there have been as many as three parties interested in acuquring the land, and that he would let the decision be made in a city request for proposal process.
"The issue with the property, the church isn't the only one wants that property," Henry said.
Henry also vehmently denied that he would like to see the church leave the community.
In the email Brown points out that the church is on the west side of York Road, which was traditionally segregated with whites living on the west and blacks on the east, and suggests that because it’s a primarily black church on the other side of York Road it’s vulnerable.
"When you think about it—racially and economically, Pleasant Hope is on the 'wrong side of the tracks,'" Brown writes.
Brown goes on to encourage congregation members to attend Henry's district wide meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Junior League, 5902 York Road.