UNION BRIDGE — A worsening case of diabetes has made life more difficult over the last three years for John Reed, to the point where climbing stairs to his second-floor apartment has become a health hazard.
"I can't half see and I can't half walk," said Reed, 59, a retiree who has lived for about one year in a subsidized apartment above a business on North Main Street.
John Jackson, 57, is partially paralyzed and lives in a trailer near Sykesville that his sister, Matilda Brightful of Randallstown, Baltimore County, says is "not fit to live in" because it leaks and has faulty heating and other structural problems. It's also inconvenient to most services for Jackson, who doesn't have transportation.
Both men are prospective tenants for two government-subsidized apartments that Union Bridge-based businessman James D. Gouge Sr. wants to create on the ground floor of the North Main Street building that houses his construction business office. Reed now lives on the second floor of the building.
But Gouge contends the apartments will cost too much to create if the county levies a $2,150-per-unit development impact fee, the charge adopted to help pay for new schools and recreational facilities needed to accommodate residential growth.
Last month, Gouge became the first to appeal the levy since the fees were adopted in March 1989. Fees for single-family homes and town houses are $2,700, except in South Carroll, where they are $800 higher to help pay for reservoir development.
At the time of Gouge's Sept. 4 appeal, the county had yet to establish several crucial guidelines. The county commissioners have since appointed Comptroller Eugene C. Curfmanas hearing examiner and adopted a $125 fee for the appeals process. An appeal must be heard within 60 days, and a commissioners' decisionmust be rendered within 30 days of the hearing.
Gouge is not related to Commissioner Julia W. Gouge.
The two apartments would be placed under the federal Housing and Urban Development's program for the elderly and the disabled, units that are in short supply in Carroll, the appeal says.
"By charging this fee we cannot afford to provide these apartments to the people who are in desperate need of housing," the appeal says.
Under county ordinance, the petitioner has the "burden of establishing by expert evidence that the fee as levied does not fairly reflect the impact of the development on the county's capital improvements."
Gouge and building manager Anita Moxley argue that the fee should be waived because the apartments will be designated for the elderly or disabled, groups which typically would not have an impact on schools or parks.
"If (the commissioners) check with HUD, they'll see not enough is provided in Carroll County," said Moxley. "This is not an undercover thing to get the apartments approved."
Gouge estimates it will cost $10,000 to $12,000 per unit to renovate the unoccupied portion of the building into apartments. Builders must construct new floors, ceilings and walls and install plumbing, electricity and structures for the disabled, such as ramps and bathroom devices, he said.
"Any time you work on an old building, youhave a lot of work to do, believe me," Gouge said.
Reed, who worked in the Taneytown area on a turf farm and at the closed Cambridge Rubber plant, said he wants to stay in the Union Bridge building, provided he can move downstairs and maintain a low rent. He said he pays $98 monthly from his Social Security check for his current apartment,with HUD picking up the rest of the $450.
"He needs to be looked out for," said Moxley, who added that the landlords do some errands and other helpful tasks for Reed. "He doesn't have anybody that does."
Jackson, who lives on disability payments, could not be reached for comment.