Follow the bouncing permit Anne Arundel County: Squabble over nursing center raises troubling questions.

July 23, 1996

ON THE SURFACE, the prolonged squabble over a plan to build a nursing home and assisted living facility on the South DTC Haven peninsula near Annapolis may seem like just another not-in-my-backyard complaint. But aside from evident NIMBY fears, this project raises troubling questions about how state authorities handle permits in ways that can cause emotions to flare in affected communities.

In 1990, when the state issued the initial "certificate of need," the nursing facility was supposed to be built in Crofton. The original applicant was mired in financial and regulatory problems and eventually went bankrupt, however.

Enter Beechwood Heritage Retirement Community Inc., which bought the certificate for $1 million, and decided to apply it to an 11.4-acre lot off South Haven Road. Years went by, nothing happened.

Finally, the $15 million project's control shifted to Allegis Health Services Inc, yet another company. Under a recent decision by the Maryland Health Resources Planning Commission, Allegis will have until February 1998 to build the 117,000-square-foot complex.

A "certificate of need" is issued on the basis of the perceived need for nursing beds in a certain area. According to the Health Resources Planning Commission, such a need exists in Anne Arundel County.

This assessment is difficult to dispute, considering demographic projections which predict a huge increase in coming years in the number of aging Americans.

At the same time, we are sympathetic toward South Haven residents. While many of their concerns may be dismissed as opposition to anything that brings change to their surroundings, the process of allowing the trafficking of "certificates of need" for profit from one operator and site to another smacks of high-handed bureaucratic callousness.

It also places a disapproving community at a distinct disadvantage. The operator already has a valid license -- albeit one that was issued for a different location -- while the community is still trying to figure out all the details of the plan imposed on it.

There has got to be a better -- and more equitable -- method of permit review.

Pub Date: 7/23/96

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