Response to the easing of restrictions on assisted living housing has been so high that Baltimore County will hold a seminar today for prospective operators.
The County Council passed a bill in January that allows homes for as many as 15 elderly residents without special zoning approval, if the house to be used needs no more than a 25 percent expansion.
Construction of a building or any expansion of more than 25 percent would require a special zoning exception, a slow, expensive process that includes a public hearing.
The seminar will be at 6:30 p.m. at the Bykota Senior Center, 611 Central Ave. in Towson.
Potential operators will learn how to obtain state and county approval for certification of assisted living facilities.
"Residential assisted living is something that has no downside," said Dr. Philip H. Pushkin, director of the county Department of Aging.
"These senior citizens are not noisy, and there's no increase in traffic, because they don't drive."
Dr. Pushkin said assisted living homes are an alternative to the more expensive nursing homes, which cost $3,000 a month or more.
He estimated the cost of assisted living homes at $1,100 to $1,500 a month.
"We were the only jurisdiction in Maryland which didn't provide a proper zoning climate for assisted living homes," he said.
Residents generally are frail people who have minor ailments and who need assistance in daily living.
Brenda Walker, who had tried for more than two years under the old rules and against neighborhood opposition to expand her assisted living operation in Catonsville, charges about $1,300 a month per resident.
Ms. Walker wanted to expand from the permitted six residents to the now-allowed 15 residents.
The cost includes housing, meals, personal care, and social and recreational activities.
Ms. Walker bought the 1.3-acre property -- once part of an estate called Rockwell -- in 1992. The white-frame, green-shuttered home is in the 2200 block of Pleasant Villa Ave.
"She will be the first to get certification," Dr. Pushkin said.
He said assisted living homes help stabilize older neighborhoods.
"These are usually large homes that will have to be kept up by the operators," he said. "We'll hold meetings in each neighborhood to inform the public on the value of the homes."
The director estimated that about 60 more beds will be available by midsummer.
With the new county regulations, more than 120 applications have been filed to open or expand assisted living facilities. More than 60 potential operators have registered to attend the seminar, Dr. Pushkin said.
Officials from the county departments of Permits and Licenses, Fire, Zoning, and Aging will explain policies and regulations.