Home for the elderly will expand Catonsville group drops objections BALTIMORE COUNTY

November 25, 1992|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Staff Writer

Brenda Walker's home away from home for the elderly in Catonsville can expand to handle 15 people now that neighbors have dropped their opposition to the plan.

"I'm glad it's over. It's a worthy cause," said Ms. Walker, a soft-spoken mother of two grown children and a computer analyst at the Johns Hopkins University for 25 years who has turned a lifelong interest in helping the elderly into an avocation.

Ms. Walker has been picking her way through Baltimore County's complicated approval process for a year to help fill what she and county officials agree is a void in accommodations for the elderly.

Ms. Walker owns another senior residence for 15 elderly people at Hilton Avenue and Dennison Street in Baltimore and operates both places as Lifespring Senior Housing.

The 22-room residential facility in the 2200 block of Pleasant Villa Ave. in Catonsville now houses six elderly women. Ms. Walker got the Baltimore County zoning commissioner's approval for a special exception to expand its capacity to 15, but a community association appealed the decision.

A hearing on the appeal was to be held yesterday morning, but it was canceled after the association withdrew its appeal.

"We fought city hall, but we had no chance to win," said William J. Chupka, president of the West Catonsville Community Association. "We wanted to keep the neighborhood residential, and now we have a commercial enterprise."

Zoning Commissioner Lawrence E. Schmidt had ruled earlier that the expanded occupancy would not harm the neighborhood and would not unduly increase traffic, a major concern of the association.

Ms. Walker had the solid support of state and county officials in her quest for an exception for the home, which was zoned for four apartments.

Dr. Philip H. Pushkin, director of the county Department of

Aging, said his office supports the home and others like it.

Grace Smearman, housing project manager for the Maryland Office on Aging, said, "It's a wonderful alternative" to a nursing home.

The people at the home in Catonsville have minor ailments, but they can walk and are semi-independent, Ms. Walker said.

"Some of these people lived alone, and we provide a family setting for them," Ms. Walker said. "They feel better around other people, and the association with others even improves their health."

Ms. Walker bought the 1.3-acre property -- once part of a large estate called Rockwell -- last year. The white-framed, green-shuttered home includes five bathrooms, a chapel and large sitting room.

Ms. Walker, who frequently volunteers at senior citizens centers in the city, said she has always had a good rapport with older people.

"I remember organizing a Christmas party for seniors in my neighborhood when I was 17," she said. She has a certificate in gerontology from Baltimore City Community College and a degree in business administration from Morgan State University.

A resident at her homes pays about $1,300 a month for care that includes housing, meals, beauty care and social and recreational opportunities.

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