No need for Greenspring complex

August 19, 1993

In stating his case for building a 2.5 million-square-foot retirement complex in the environmentally sensitive Greenspring Valley, developer John Erickson has argued that the site would be accessible to the many central county residents who want to retire to a "senior city" near their homes.

We can't deny the great need for senior housing in Baltimore County. By the end of the decade, about 15 percent of the county's populace will be 60 or older. And according to the county's Department of Aging, the subdivision is second only to Dade County, Fla., in how fast the number of its senior citizens is growing.

Mr. Erickson has helped fill some of the need, at least for retirees of middle or higher incomes, with his sprawling and highly successful Charlestown community in Catonsville. Now he plans to build a complex a number of miles from White Marsh like the one he opened 10 years ago in Catonsville. The $200 million 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.

While we welcome this news, we would also point out that this new project undercuts Mr. Erickson's adamant stance that his proposed Greenspring site would be the only one to satisfy seniors who live in the northern and central sections of the county. The greater White Marsh area, like the Greenspring site, is within easy driving distance of residents of Cockeysville, Timonium and Towson, thanks to the Jones Falls Expressway, the Beltway and other major arteries. So is Owings Mills, which is a county-designated growth area and a potential site for another one of Mr. Erickson's commendable complexes.

The Greenspring Valley, however, is anything but a hotbed of growth. In fact, it was designated by the county as an agricultural preservation area, a stretch of natural splendor made all the more precious by its proximity to one of the largest urban corridors in the nation. Such a huge complex as the proposed Charlestown at Greenspring would not only do irreparable damage to an important piece of land but also set a dangerous precedent for further development in the valley.

As Mr. Erickson's White Marsh idea shows, the valley need not be touched to make room for a senior city or any other development.

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