By Sharon Mager
COLUMBIA, Md.—Messengers met for a special called meeting on Jan. 14 at South Columbia Baptist Church. They voted to approve a motion to allow the sale of a perpetual conservation easement on the Skycroft property to the State of Maryland for $1.1 million, in accordance with the terms presented to the General Mission Board by a representative of the Civil War Preservation Trust.
They also voted to put $1.1 million, less transaction costs, into the Skycroft Development fund to be used for Skycroft maintenance and development as authorized by the General Mission Board.
BCM/D Executive Director David Lee thanked messengers for making the effort to attend the meeting. He shared that the special meeting was necessary due to the BCM/D not receiving the formal final offer until immediately before the annual meeting. With the need to prepare documentation and get it to the lawyer, Lee said they just couldn’t complete the process and have full information and disclosure at the annual meeting.
Skycroft Executive Director Doug DuBois gave messengers an overview of Skycroft’s history and the proposal of the easement. There has been discussion about finding a way to sell the land as part of a historical trust for over a decade but it wasn’t possible. Now, the state has approached Skycroft.
DuBois said the land where the easement will be effective will not pass a perc test, which determines suitability for a septic system, due to very stringent state standards. The property also lacks public water.
The closest public sewer and water is five miles away in Myersville, which would cost approximately $5 million to pay for the easements to cut across the land. DuBois also said he wasn’t sure if Myersville’s facility could handle the addition of Skycroft. Regardless of the easement, Skycroft, as it stands now, would not be able to make improvements/build in those areas. areas.
DuBois said if the easement was signed in the mid-seventies, before the motels were built, there would be no changes.
With the easement, Skycroft can develop area within the 27-acre development envelope. Skycroft can also maintain the property in the remaining 250 acres, they just can’t improve it.
It can never be subdivided and if the property is sold, there are only four uses allowed:
• it can be sold as one single family dwelling;
• it can be used in a similar manner as Skycroft–like a camp, or boy or girl scout groups;
• it can be used for light commercial business, such as a retirement home;
• It can be used for agricultural purposes.
DuBois contacted a real estate agent who said if the property was sold, it would possibly be worth up to $8 million.
There were several questions about whether receiving state funds would require the convention to permit same sex marriage at Skycroft. BCM/D’s attorney, Jeff Agnor, said no, the referendum makes it clear that religious orders of all kind are not required to offer marriage ceremonies or receptions.
Regarding the second motion, DuBois said he roughly estimates needing approximately $750-800,000 to upgrade Skycroft. That includes replacing kitchen equipment made in the 1970’s, new mattresses, beds, roofing, siding, asphalt parking lots and audio visual equipment.
Joseph King, messenger from First Baptist Church, North East, proposed using men and women throughout BCM/D churches who can expertly provide those services. DuBois said directed messengers to a link on the BCM/D website to volunteer (https://bcmd.org/iso).
Mike Logsdon, pastor of First Baptist Church, Easton, made a motion to send 10 percent of the final cost to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering.
“We would still have $990,000,” Logsdon said. “We will have an incredible opportunity to do something amazing with billions in darkness.” Logsdon referred to missionaries ready to go into the field but lacking funding.
Jim Jeffries, pastor of LaVale Baptist Church, spoke against the motion. Jeffries said Skycroft is a mission. “I feel we are investing 100 percent to missions on our local mission field.”
Messengers voted to use the funds for Skycroft maintenance and development, as authorized by the General Mission Board.