Charlestown at White Marsh

August 13, 1993

Now that Charlestown Retirement Community developer John Erickson plans to build a White Marsh complex much like the one he opened 10 years ago in Catonsville, opponents of his $H proposal to build another "senior city" in Greenspring Valley might be tempted to rest easy and believe that their fight has been won.

They would be making a mistake if they did, for Mr. Erickson says he is committed as ever to putting a 2.5 million-square-foot retirement community on a parcel of land at Greenspring Valley Road and Falls Road.

The $200 million White Marsh project, planned for an 85-acre site near the crossing of Joppa Road and Walther Boulevard, would house more than 2,000 seniors and employ 800 people by its completion within five years. The facility is expected to be fast-tracked through the county's development process and could open as soon as February 1995.

Certainly the Baltimore metro area could use more of the high-quality senior housing that Mr. Erickson has been offering at his hugely successful Catonsville complex (though only people of at least middle-income range could afford it). The need is particularly great in Baltimore County, a subdivision second only to Dade County, Fla., in how fast the number of its senior citizens is growing.

So we welcome the news of Mr. Erickson's proposal to build in White Marsh, which is, after all, a county-designated growth area. However, we continue to oppose his vision of a Charlestown at Greenspring, primarily on the grounds that such a huge complex and the precedent it might set would prove disastrous for the environmentally sensitive valley. The area's natural splendors, all the more precious for their proximity to the rush and roar of the nation's fourth-largest urban corridor, are precisely why the county has a master plan protecting local rural pockets from threatening developments.

One of Mr. Erickson's main arguments for the Greenspring site is that it's easily reached by the many central county residents who would like to retire to a complex near their homes. This sounds like dubious logic when one considers White Marsh is mere minutes away from Cockeysville, Timonium and Towson, as is another designated growth area, Owings Mills.

Mr. Erickson undercuts his own case with his White Marsh proposal, which suggests he can continue to build his first-rate senior communities in the county without touching land that should remain untouched.

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