Residents decry nursing home plan Traffic is concern

firm seeks more time to build facility

July 08, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Four communities have promised to fight a Prince George's County company's request for more time to build a $15 million nursing home and assisted living facility on the South Haven peninsula.

"We are opposed to the project, and we are working hard to stop it," said Joanne Johnson, president of the Southaven Community Association and member of the South Haven Peninsula Coalition.

Tomorrow, Allegis Health Services Inc. will ask the Maryland Health Resources Planning Commission for a two-year extension of the permit to build the facility on 11.37 acres off South Haven Road.

It is a day Johnson's group and members of civic groups in Bon Haven, South River Manor and Windfern Forest have been planning for.

For the past four months, they have been writing to local officials asking for support. Their lawyers have been reviewing county records to determine if Allegis violated any zoning codes.

The original certificate, which was issued to Beechwood Heritage Retirement Community Inc. in 1990, ends in December. But Allegis, which recently assumed control of the project from Beechwood and received a financial commitment from Health Properties Inc. in Newport Beach, Calif., wants until December 1998 to complete the project.

"We want to get going this fall, and we obviously won't be able to [complete construction] by this December," said Paul J. Diaz, the chief executive officer with the Calverton-based firm.

The coalition has told Allegis officials that it is opposed to the project for three reasons.

First, the coalition noted that the maximum number of beds for the nursing home allowed was 137, but that Allegis plans to increase that number to 157 within two years of its opening.

That could clog traffic on the two-lane South Haven Road that is the main route from Defense Highway to the peninsula, Johnson said.

"The infrastructure is not in place," she said. "If it was a smaller facility, we could live with it, but it's not."

Second, the increased number of beds would require more low-wage employees, some of whom might need public transportation to get to the center, which, in turn, could signal the familiar rumble of public buses, said Joan Bell, a member of the Bon Haven Community Association.

"Look at our names -- Bon Haven, South Haven," she said. "We're sort of a secluded area away from the hubbub, and we don't want to be near that."

Finally, residents are upset that neither Beechwood nor Allegis had built the center within the six-year time limit of the certificate of need, Bell said.

"We just think that this has gone on long enough," she said. "Here is a mismanaged effort that should be stopped."

But Diaz said Allegis has made significant changes to alleviate residents' concerns. While acknowledging that the nursing home would exceed what was stipulated in the original permit, he also said the number of units in the assisted living facility would be reduced from 95 to 75.

He also said Allegis was willing to provide a shuttle service to pick up its employees -- which would not exceed more than 200 -- from a nearby site with parking.

The company also has scaled back the size of the project -- from a nursing home and an assisted living facility totaling 150,000 square feet to about 115,000 square feet, Diaz said.

Plus, Allegis has reduced the size of the center from 2 1/2 stories to 2 stories and moved it 60 feet back from the original setback, he said.

Diaz said he "empathized" with residents' opposition and attributed most of the tension to Beechwood's refusal to discuss the project with the residents.

"I think a lot of it stems from the history of how it was conceived and put forward," Diaz said. "Our predecessors took the approach that they didn't need to extend themselves to the community, and that's unfortunate.

"But I think we're better neighbors," he continued, adding that Allegis is managing eight similar centers in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Montgomery County.

Pub Date: 7/08/96

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