Councilman seeks review of laws on group homes Assisted-living facility is focus of complaints

July 25, 1996|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

As a group of Catonsville residents awaits a zoning decision on an unapproved enlargement of an assisted-living group home in its neighborhood, its councilman is preparing to ask the county planning board to re-examine the laws governing such facilities.

Members of the Old Catonsville Neighborhood Association have expressed concern over Parkside Assisted Living at 303 N. Rolling Road, whose owners recently built a three-story addition to the Victorian-style home. The facility would have a maximum of 15 beds for elderly residents.

The neighborhood group complained that the owners -- Richard Ainsworth and Matthew Decker -- built the addition without following county procedure and securing the proper building permits.

"Assisted living is a very lucrative business and one that is very much needed in Baltimore County," said Kirby Spencer, a former president of the neighborhood association. "Our concern is that this situation could set a precedent in which we are sending a bad message that any contractor can build whatever they want and then apply for permits later."

Decker, who as head of the Decker Group built the addition, said he mistakenly did not reapply for another building permit after it became obvious that the finished structure would exceed the plans filed for the original project.

"It was all a misunderstanding," said Decker, whose group home has three residents. "I didn't think the basement and attic counted as part of the complete square footage."

Decker and his partner since have applied for the needed zoning variances, and a hearing was held last week before Zoning Commissioner Lawrence E. Schmidt.

County Councilman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, said yesterday that he had sent fellow members copies of a resolution, which he plans to introduce Aug. 5, asking the planning board to look at laws relating to assisted living. Moxley said he wants the board to consider how such facilities affect communities.

"I'm really looking to [the planning board] for some guidance on this issue," Moxley said. "I want to make sure there is absolutely no occupancy in these homes until every single 'i' is dotted and every 't' is crossed."

Schmidt, who expects to make a decision on Parkside's request for variances within a few days, said that in extreme cases the county could prosecute owners for building without following proper procedure. County officials give owners a chance to apply for exceptions after the fact to avoid such prosecution, he said.

Pub Date: 7/25/96

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