Board Approves Housing Mentally Ill In Condos

November 15, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Omni House claimed another victory yesterday in its drawn-out struggle to move 24 mentally ill people into a Glen Burnie condominium complex

The county Board of Zoning Appeals dismissed an appeal by other residents of Cromwell Fountain, a 900-unit development still under construction off Ordnance Road. Residents claimed the county Office of Planning and Zoning had erred in allowing the non-profit rehabilitation program to purchase the homes for its clients.

"I hope this is the end," said Lois Miller, who founded Omni House in 1981. "I'd like to be friends with those people up there and help them understand that we will stand by our word that we will make good neighbors."

But Gregory L. Stephenson, attorney for the condominium homeowners association, said the group is likely to appeal the decision to Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.

Last December, Miller toured Cromwell Fountain and thought she had found the perfect place for 24 clients, most of whom were living at Crownsville Medical Center. But three months after she signed an agreement to purchase 12 condominiums, the deal went sour amid neighborhood fears of the residents "going berserk" and endangering children.

The homeowners association, which voted unanimously to oppose the purchase, filed a complaint in June challenging whether the project is allowed under county zoning laws. In their motion, residents of the first phase of CromwellFountain contend that Omni House is either a group home or nursing care, and thus not a permitted use under the county code.

Susan Nathan, attorney for Omni House, argued that the complaint should be dismissed because the county already gave its stamp of approval. The county Office of Planning and Zoning sent several letters affirming the use was allowed, she testified at last night's hearing.

The board agreed with Nathan's argument that it did not have jurisdiction over such an appeal.

Omni House still is waiting for a decision on awards from its suit against developer Frank J. Scott and his Cromwell Fountain Associates. The group sought $12,500 in damages, along with $500,000 in penalties. A federal judge found Scott guilty of housing discrimination in June and ordered him to sell the 12 condos in dispute.

His ruling cleared the way for 16 patients at Crownsville Hospital Center to move into the homes. Eight clients who were living in rented apartments in the Glen Burnie area also moved to Cromwell Fountain.

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