Panel gets OK to put house for low-income tenants in airport noise zone

January 14, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Wanted: one low- to moderate-income tenant who doesn't mind a noisy neighbor -- Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The Howard County Housing Commission received approval this week to place a house for low-income tenants at a Dorsey Road site in the airport's noise zone.

The modular house was built last summer by inmates at the Patuxent Institution as part of a vocational program of the state Division of Correction.

County housing director Leonard S. Vaughan and representatives of the commission went before the Maryland Board of Airport Zoning Appeals on Monday to explain how the commission plans to meet state guidelines governing acceptable noise levels in residential units within an airport noise zone.

Under an agreement between the county Housing Commission and the state Division of Correction, the commission will buy the house and rent or sell it to a local, low-income family.

The commission is responsible for buying a home site, transporting the house and on-site construction.

The commission is negotiating to buy a site in the airport noise zone near Dorsey Road. If the deal goes through, the home should be occupied by the spring, Mr. Vaughan said.

The house, which was completed in October, is sitting in the yard at the Patuxent Institution.

Initially, plans called for the house to be occupied by the end of November, but twice the deals to purchase sites fell through, Mr. Vaughan said.

The high price of land in Howard also contributed to the difficulty in finding an appropriate site, housing officials said.

"It's almost impossible to find affordable lots in Howard County," said Chris Tolson, the county's housing rehabilitation coordinator. "You go to a Realtor and ask them to pull a lot for under $50,000 and nothing comes up."

Mr. Tolson said the lot under consideration in the airport noise zone is part of established residential neighborhoods.

"There are houses being put in there continually," Mr. Tolson said. "The walls won't shake, and the china won't fall off the shelves."

Under state law, the Board of Airport Zoning Appeals must review all plans to construct residential units within the airport noise zone.

The nine-member board is appointed by the governor and has representatives from Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties.

"The purpose of it is to protect persons who would unwittingly build in the noise zone and be disturbed by the sound of aircraft," said Joseph Knepper, an airport planner with the state Department of Transportation.

Homes within the noise zone must meet certain sound-reducing design requirements with respect to insulation, window types and side wall construction, so the the interior noise level does not exceed 45 decibels, Mr. Knepper said.

The home built by state inmates for the county Housing Commission is thought to be the first project of its kind in the country, said Cliff Benser, projects manager with State Use Industries, the vocational division of the state Division of Correction.

Using a $70,000 loan from the county, the county Housing Commission will buy the house from State Use Industries for $28,000 and use the remainder of the money to install the house at the site.

Mr. Vaughan estimated the market value of the three-bedroom rancher home is $125,000 to $130,000.

The occupant family will be chosen from a waiting list of eligible county residents. The commission may lease the home or lease it with an option to buy, Mr. Vaughan said.

"I think the quality of the house was excellent; the workmanship was superb," said Mr. Vaughan. He said the commission was so impressed with the work that it plans to enter into another home construction partnership with State Use Industries.

In the meantime, Mr. Benser said, the inmate construction crew has started work on a second home for Prince George's County.

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