Assisted Living Home's Expansion Ruled Illegal

Appeals Board's Decision In Catonsville Dispute To Be Appealed By Owners

April 25, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

A two-year community fight over a large, unapproved expansion of a Catonsville assisted living home took a dramatic turn yesterday when the Baltimore County Board of Appeals declared the operation illegal.

The unanimous decision reverses a zoning commissioner's ruling in July that the Parkside Assisted Living home at 303 N. Rolling Road is entitled to zoning variances and a special exception that would legitimize the completed four-level, $700,000 addition.

Board Chairman Robert O. Schuetz persuaded his reluctant board colleagues, Harry E. Buchmeister and Charles L. Marks, to go along with his view that the addition was improperly added to the large home two years ago.

The work was done without proper permits and increased the home's size by 35 percent, making it so incompatible with the neighborhood that Marks said it "looks like a small hotel."

Said Schuetz: "There is no way that an addition of this size and scope is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. They've done a beautiful job, but the size was inappropriate."

He added that any hardship the decision causes owners Richard Ainsworth and Matthew Decker is "self-imposed."

A change of mind

Buchmeister, a Catonsville resident, first said he would grant any zoning approval necessary, despite the owners having "railroaded" their renovations through. He said the work made the house more attractive and served a great need among frail elderly people.

But he changed his mind after Schuetz argued strenuously that the building clearly violates county zoning laws and doesn't qualify for retroactive approvals.

The victory for the North Rolling Road Community Association was sweeter because the the group had no lawyer of its own, and still beat Parkside attorney Michael Gisriel, a veteran attorney and former state delegate. The residents were aided by county People's Counsel Peter Max Zimmerman.

Setting a precedent

Residents were worried that if they didn't fight this case, other large homes in their old residential neighborhood south of U.S. 40 could be expanded.

"The board said it all," Frederick B. Cascia, the group's vice president who argued its case, said after the decision.

But Gisriel said the ruling is legally flawed and he vowed to appeal to Circuit Court. Fifteen elderly people live in the home.

Pub Date: 4/25/97

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