Balto. Co. plan panel backs curbs on homes for elderly Board restricts location, number of thin townhouses

September 19, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

In separate actions yesterday, the Baltimore County Planning Board put new restrictions on the location of group assisted-living homes for the elderly and on the width of townhouses, but postponed a vote on changes to laws governing home-based occupations.

If enacted by the County Council, the board's recommendation on homes for the elderly would restrict the location of homes with more than 10 people in residential neighborhoods -- reversing the direction of a law enacted in 1994, when there were no such homes in the county.

L Twenty-four assisted-living homes now operate in the county.

"The demand is only going one way, and that's up," deputy director of aging Arnold Eppel told the board. He said the county has 138,000 residents 60 or older, about 18 percent of the population.

The county is under pressure from residents in older neighborhoods such as Catonsville who oppose conversion of large old houses into assisted-living homes for as many as 15 elderly people.

The county changed its laws in 1994 to allow assisted-living homes with as many as 15 residents in all residential areas without a hearing. Earlier, establishing a home for the elderly of any size required a hearing.

The board's latest recommendations would allow as many as 15 people in a home fronting on a main artery and as many as 10 residents in a home on a smaller street, if it hasn't been recently expanded by more than 25 percent and isn't in a historic district.

All other homes with more than 10 residents would require a special zoning exception and a public hearing, under the board's recommendation.

"We worked hard on it," said county Planning Director Arnold F. "Pat" Keller about the proposed compromise. "We came up with what we feel is a reasonable decision," he said, noting that the council has the final say.

But home operators complain that because of the potential for appeals, getting a special zoning exception can take years and cost thousands of dollars and will retard the establishment of homes as the county's elderly population is growing.

By contrast, the recommendation isn't strict enough to satisfy County Councilman Stephen G. Sam Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat. He wants to lower the number of elderly people who can live in the homes in residential areas without special zoning approval.

"They don't make the laws," he said about the planners' recommendations. He said he is examining a Howard County law that allows only eight elderly residents in any assisted-living home without special zoning approval.

The planning board's decision to tighten development standards for townhouses, meanwhile, does not require County Council action. It means the planning board will review individual development projects, thereby controlling the number and placement of townhouses narrower than 20 feet.

The County Council last month banned back-to-back townhouses.

Because of many changes suggested for the zoning laws governing home occupations, the board postponed a vote on that until the next meeting Oct. 9.

Pub Date: 9/19/97

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