More than 300 Pikesville residents packed an emotional hearing before the Baltimore County Planning Board last night on plans for a 152-unit housing project for the elderly proposed by Beth Tfiloh Synagogue.
The vast majority in the standing-room crowd were opposed to )) the project, which they viewed as out of place in their neighborhoods of single-family homes and feared would significantly increase traffic.
The project, Beth Tfiloh at Old Court, is under review as a planned unit development -- a classification giving the Planning Board final authority on approval, and precluding appeals.
Beth Tfiloh officials want to build 72 units of independent living condominiums in three, three-story buildings; an 80-unit assisted living facility; and two buildings that would be additions to their Hebrew school on the 35-acre site along Old Court Road east of Park Heights Avenue.
Present zoning would allow only 58 units of any type of housing. Rather than changing the zoning, the synagogue is asking for the planned unit approval as well as a zoning density bonus under a county law that is applicable to senior citizens housing.
The Office of Planning and Zoning recommended to the board that the planned unit development and density bonus be approved. But during last night's hearing, Beth Tfiloh representatives were asked tough questions by several board members.
One of the questions was whether condominium units that Beth Tfiloh said would average $200,000 in price could be considered a public benefit -- a key issue in determining whether a planned unit development should be approved.
"Beth Tfiloh has a history of service to our community and we think our project has merit that will add significantly to that history," said Jules Lichter, an attorney who is past president of the congregation.
Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld , speaking in behalf of eight community associations representing 900 families, disagreed.
"This project goes beyond the basic religious and educational functions of the synagogue," Dr. Lichtenfeld said. "This project will only benefit a few at the expense of a great many."
Arnold F. "Pat" Keller III, county planning director, said the project has been one of the most difficult his office has ever handled because of the high emotions it has created.
The planning board is scheduled to vote on the project in September.