State of Maryland No Show at Islamic Leadership Insitute of America's Green Sprouts Hearing

Property Tax Exemption Hearing Postponed as State of Maryland Attorney General Fails to Appear at Appeal's Board Hearing
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* Vegetable Garden
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* Baltimore - Maryland - US

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BALTIMORE - Aug. 29, 2014 - PRLog -- It was around 9:30 am on July 27th, as the founder of Islamic Leadership Institute of America and two students strolled down the third floor of Baltimore City's high-rise on 6 St Paul St. The group was looking forward to provide the State of Maryland Property Tax Appeal Board with an explanation in the hopes ending a two-year ordeal the state has been giving the 501c(3) tax exempt educational non-profit for an application submitted in July of 2012 for property tax exemption in accordance with the laws of the state.

Green Sprouts, ILIA's leadership development vegetable garden club was initiated in 2012, as a resource for educating youth ages 7-22 on leadership traits and styles through experiential and service learning. Through a public auction the non-profit acquired the modest lot of land on the border of Baltimore County and the city in May 2012, after two months of a long closing process including debt and unpaid utilities payoff on behalf of the previous owner. The lot was home to stray pets, rodents and was a dump location for appliances and mattresses. The grass as tall as 5 feet high, a dead fallen tree across the end of the lot, and two huge trees over 40 feet high waiting for their turn to flatten the neighboring houses like a child crushes a cookie, were a few other nuisances that the team had to deal with handling.

ILIA's middle school group spent the summer of 2012 cutting the grass, removing weeds, hauling debris and cleaning the lot. By the end of the summer the high school group was able to go on a regular basis and ensure the weekly maintenance and landscaping of the lot. Our high school intern would pick up the ILIA van, the mower, tools, gas canisters and drive over to Gwyn Oak mow the lawn and pick up trash that teens in the neighborhood would leave behind. As the ILIA students noticed that the quantity of disposed liquor bottles on property has been steady at a rate of a full trash bag per week, and was not dropping, the team decided it was time for a fence. The organization received a $10,000 good loan from one of its student’s family allowing the organization to fence up the property.

A brother from the Baltimore City community was contracted to erect a fence as high as 8 feet in some areas to minimize the urge of mattress disposers from throwing them over the fence in the back, and as low as four feet in the front to abide by the aesthetics of the beautiful residential neighborhood and the city’s guidelines.

The next big task was to take down the two giant trees that shot high up on the sky, as each breeze would come by, the trees would squeak and lean left and right. Another brother from a different part of Baltimore was tasked with the job bringing relief to ILIA and its neighbors. Part of good gesture of trusted neighborhood ILIA took down the trees not only on its suggestion, but also responded to the request of a neighbor to prune a tree on the border of the property line that was extending branches into his lot, and ILIA repaired a fence of another neighbor damaged prior to acquisition of the property by a storm.

The rest of 2012 was spent on land rehabilitation, volunteer activities, mulching, finer cleaning of the lot, removal of rocks and community outreach. ILIA’s high school group shared flyers with over 200 houses about Green Sprouts and its events, learned about the neighborhood, played basketball with the neighborhood youth and learned about a large public Middle School that Baltimore City is closing down, which they felt is a great opportunity for a future Halal Yeah center. As the year came to an end six trees were planted by ILIA’s elementary school, high school and college students in November.

The year 2013 witnessed two community picnics, where over 200 attendees joined both public events. Attendees included ILIA students, their parents, residents of Women Affairs of Al-Mumtahinah Home and Muslimat Al-Nisaa, worshippers at Gwyn Oak masjid, the Comptroller of Baltimore City, the president of the Dorchester Community Association, children from the neighborhood and ILIA volunteers. It also witnessed two small vegetable beds the beginning of a small garden. The high school group constructed a brick grill for community picnics during the spring, and a project street sign was designed, painted and erected by the elementary school group in the fall.

As the spring of 2014 brought its warmth and longer days, the high school group under the supervision of their mentor increased the vegetable beds size approximately six-fold, making space for tomatoes, green pepper, mint, carrots, cantaloupe, water melon, egg plant, tulips, flowers and corn. The effort was partly funded through a $1000 grant received from Parks and People Foundation, one of the largest non-profits in Baltimore City focused on green space.

During the two years since ILIA acquired the land the State of Maryland has been dragging its feet to respond to the application. At first a year went by without hearing back from the State agency, upon numerous phone calls that ended up on a voice mail, and two in person visits to 6 St Paul St, finally a supervisor mentioned that the inspector had a question “it seems”, another six months to get to find out what the “question is about”, and no response, unclear excuses and claims. Finally during a snow covered day in Feb of 2014 the inspector and his supervisor visit Green Sprouts, the supervisor asks a few questions, asks for some references and apologizes for the delay. On the other hand the grumpy inspector belittles the efforts of two years of hard work, with extremely limited funding, humble resources and more importantly the motivation and citizenship of the 60+ youth, half dozen mentors and handful of seniors who participated in Green Spouts since its inception dedicating and volunteering their time and efforts.

Alhamedellah since 2012 over 1500 student-hours were invested in Green Sprouts across more than several dozen classes, events and activities.

As ILIA was about to give up on an appeal, a letter was received in the spring of 2014 inviting the team and our students to attend an appeal hearing to explain why we feel Green Sprouts deserves property tax exemption. Two of our high school students joined ILIA’s founder with four copies of 40 sheets of paper illustrating the story of Green Sprouts. The appeals board welcomed the group and promised to reschedule the hearing to October inshaa Allah.

Everyone is encouraged to attend the October hearing to provide support; the date will be shared once received from the Board of Appeals.

For more information on Green Sprouts please visit

Talaat Shehata
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Tags:Public Hearing, Vegetable Garden, Education, Service Learning, Experiential Learning
Industry:Education, Non-profit
Location:Baltimore - Maryland - United States
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Page Updated Last on: Aug 29, 2014
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