Apartment Project Approved Over Objections

December 19, 1990|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Staff writer

Despite vehement citizen opposition, the County Council voted unanimously Monday to help subsidize an apartment complex in Elkridge that would reserve 25 percent of its units for the poor for the next 40 years.

The council voted to lend the developers $1.2 million at 5 percent, forgive taxes of about $300,000, and give its blessing to a state loan of $11.7 million so that the 196-unit garden apartment complex on Washington Boulevard between Montgomery Road and Dingle Road could go forward.

In return, the developers -- Orchard Development Corp., a for-profit developer headquartered in Columbia, and Columbia Housing Corp., a county-based non-profit developer of low-income housing -- have agreed to provide 49 units for low-income families and 51 units for moderate-income families for the 40-year life of the loans.

Construction is scheduled to begin next month. The developers expect to begin receiving tenants next fall and expect to complete the project in the spring of 1992.

Elkridge residents told the council they wanted no part of the apartment project. "It will have a negative impact on property values and the residents are 100 percent against it," Margaret Fox told the council.

Builder James Snodgrass said the state and county money going into the project was "pure and simple a pork barrel expenditure whose time and place is not warranted, not justified, and an added burden for all taxpayers."

"Please refrain from entering into such dismal business practices, especially during a time with the economy in a recession," he said.

"Remember, please, that the money you could very well be jeopardizing is mine, too."

Low-income rents for one-bedroom units would begin at $282 a month plus utilities, and rents for the two-bedroom units would begin at $330 a month plus utilities. Rents for the moderate-income units will be $650 for a one-bedroom unit and $670 for a two-bedroom unit.

Initial occupancy of the low-income units will be limited to households with maximum incomes of $16,200 for a two-person household and $20,250 for a family of four.

Moderate-income units will be restricted initially to two-person households with a maximum income of $25,900 and four-person households with a maximum income of $32,400.

Specific units will not be designated for low- or moderate-income families, the developers said. Instead, the units will be scattered through the project and will be leased as apartments become available in order to "maintain the required income mix at all times."

Elkridge community association president Ed Huber told the council that Elkridge is "already doing its share" by offering "more choices of affordable housing than any other part of the county."

Rochell Brown Jr., the county's community development coordinator, testified that approximately 1 percent of the dwelling units in the Elkridge-Savage-north Laurel council district are subsidized.

Ellicott City also has a 1 percent subsidy level, while Columbia has a 3 percent level, Brown said. None of the housing in the western portion of the county is subsidized, he said.

Regardless, Huber suggested the 25-acre site on which the apartments are to be built would be "ideal for being kept in its natural state." To do otherwise, he said, would "not be in the best interest of Elkridge or the county as a whole."

Council member Shane Pendergrass, in whose district the apartments are to be built, punctuated citizens' testimony by asking persons who favor the apartment complex to see things from the perspective of Elkridge residents.

"One of the issues that concerns me," Pendergrass said, "is people (favoring the bill) who don't have (affordable housing) in their back yard.

I think we need to share that perspective."

Later, when it came time for her to cast her vote, the four council members voting ahead of her had already agreed to the project.

"Since this project has passed, it would be easy to do the expedient thing and vote 'no,' " Pendergrass said. "I have, however, made a commitment to affordable housing . . . . . I would be a hypocrite if I were to say I should not vote yes."

After voting for the project, Pendergrass reminded the council that in the last five years, all of the county's new low-income housing projects have been placed in her district.

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