Racist land rules divide a Maryland community

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A charming waterfront community near Annapolis confronts its past.

It was a rude awakening for some residents, unaware of the racist rules written by Cape St. Claire’s founders.

Even more surprising, some homeowners want to keep them.

Homeowner Cindi Edelschein says “things have changed a lot in you know, 60, 70 years. So it’s good to see that they are trying to change these. I think that we need to be a little bit more progressive.”

Cindi and her neighbors recently got a letter from the improvement association, asking them to vote to remove some surprising language in their community rules.

Back in the 1940s when the covenants were drawn up, it specifically prohibited African and Asian Americans from living or owning land in Cape St. Claire.

Its welcome sign still touts its status as a “covenanted community”.

Alison van Hoven moved to the Cape nine years ago, and never knew about the restrictions.

Homeowner Alison Van Hoven says “I was unaware that it was in there until I got the little letter and then went online and read what was blacked out and read around it. I thought that was pretty surprising. I immediately checked yes, sent it back and want it changed.”

There are more than 2,500 families in Cape St. Claire.

Association President Sam Gallagher says they’ve been trying to get the wording removed since 1993.

Improvement Association President Sam Gallagher says “over the years we’ve talked to many an attorney who’s said that the only way you can do that is to get 100 percent agreement from all lot owners. Well getting consent from all 2500 families, or to even respond is a huge task

Maryland law now says an 85% vote can change it. Gallagher says residents have overwhelming responded with yes. But some have actually voted “not” to change the covenants.

Sam Gallagher says “63. 63 out of the 1,600 votes we’ve received. And a couple of them have written why they’re voting no, and one of them is that well it’s not enforceable so why are we going through this exercise anyway. And another one wrote and said it’s part of the history of the community so we should keep it. Cape St. Claire is a wonderful place, and we have this sorta nasty paragraph hanging out in our documents and it doesn’t reflect what it is and it’s time to remove it.”