County is sued by owners of group home for elderly

March 07, 1995|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

The owners of a group home for the elderly filed a lawsuit against Howard County and its planning board last week, contending that the county is discriminating against senior citizens by denying plans to expand the Columbia facility.

Carmen Colandrea and her son, Richard Colandrea, operators of Bryant Woods Inn, filed the suit in U.S. District Court on Thursday, asserting that the county violated the Constitution and the federal Fair Housing Act in denying the expansion.

The Colandreas have operated Bryant Woods Inn in Columbia's Wilde Lake Village since 1992. They intended to expand the facility to provide housing for 15 elderly people, up from the eight they now serve.

But last March the Howard County Planning Board denied the Colandreas' request for a permit that would have cleared the way for the expansion.

Beth Pepper, a Baltimore attorney for the Colandreas, said the planning board's primary reason for denying the expansion -- the lack of parking at the facility -- was a pretext to keep elderly, disabled people out of the neighborhood.

"It is illegal for Howard County to deny the elderly an opportunity to live in the community of their choice," Ms. Pepper said.

In the lawsuit, the Colandreas want the court to order the county to approve their expansion plans. They also are seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

No hearings have been scheduled for the case.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker and Joan Lancos, chairwoman of the planning board, declined to comment on the suit.

Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director of the county Department of Planning and Zoning, said at the time of the board's decision that the Colandreas' plans were rejected because they did not provide enough details about the expanded facility.

Bryant Woods Inn, which has state and county operating licenses, is a two-story dwelling on a 15,500-square-foot lot along the 10400 block of Waterfall Terrace, according to the lawsuit. It has 11 bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, den, porch, sun room and a large back yard.

Mrs. Colandrea and her late husband, who moved into the house in 1965, reared 10 children there before converting it into a group home, the suit says.

Mrs. Colandrea, who still lives in the house, cares for the residents along with one full-time and two part-time employees.

The suit states that the home's residents, some of whom suffer from Alzheimer's disease, share many of the activities of a traditional family -- eating meals, socializing, playing cards and watching television together.

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