Developer faces heated questioning Proposed complex for seniors is subject of hearing

Reuwer defends project

Residents assail plan for 116 condominiums near country club

January 25, 1998|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

The developer of a proposed 116-unit senior citizens complex in Glenwood weathered repeated and heated questions about the project's potential impact on the environment, water supplies and traffic along busy Route 97 during a public hearing yesterday.

About 50 residents, led by two slow-growth advocates, fired questions and statements at developer Donald Reuwer, who is seeking a special exception to build condominiums on 58 acres near Cattail Creek Country Club.

While many of the questions centered on "what ifs" and several others focused on legal technicalities, Reuwer defended his project, saying it was good for Howard County and filled a need.

"This will not adversely affect" the area, Reuwer said during questioning by one resident at the Board of Appeals meeting in Ellicott City. "What adverse effects will there be? I can't imagine any."

The next hearing on the proposed Villas at Cattail Creek is scheduled for Thursday, when Reuwer's traffic and environmental experts are expected to testify.

Under the special exception, only residents older than 60, or married to someone over 60, would be allowed to live in the 1,800- to 2,000-square-foot condominiums, which would cost about$210,000. Unlike assisted-living centers, the Villas would be designed for active seniors needing little help, Reuwer said.

Reuwer claims his proposed complex would appeal to a burgeoning segment of the community. But Glenwood residents charge it would put too many cars on Route 97, harm their ground water and possibly endanger nearby Triadelphia Reservoir, which serves much of metropolitan Washington.

Slow-growth advocates Susan Gray of Highland and David Huber of Glenwood spoke on behalf of most residents. They asked Reuwer pointed questions about his past developments and experience with zoning regulations.

Gray's often legalistic and technical cross-examination confused even county Board of Appeals members.

Board member George L. Layman said he "was very confused" by what the board was considering and launched into an attack on Gray, saying "with all of Mrs. Gray's rhetoric, I understand [everyone's] confusion."

Residents asked what would happen if the condominiums were unmarketable or if seniors allow children and grandchildren to move in. "What happens, let's say in three years, [if] it's all done and you can't get 116 elderly to buy the condos?" asked Dorothy Robertson of Glenwood.

Reuwer answered that he would conduct focus groups and build only enough condominiums to satisfy demand, later adding that the condominium association's rules would restrict stays by relatives to 10 weeks.

Several residents also asked what would happen to the elderly when they grew too old to live at the relatively supervision-free senior complex.

While saying that residents could pay for their own care, Reuwer emphasized that the development was geared toward elderly like "John Glenn, not those needing nursing care."

Reuwer also deflected environmental and traffic concerns, saying his engineers and scientists would have better answers when they testify.

Anne Brown, 51, of Glenwood, sporting a homemade jacket that said, "Stop the Cattail Creek Villa in Howard County," asked if Reuwer would cut down the trees along Route 97 and eliminate environmental buffer zones.

Reuwer responded that he intended to keep as many trees as possible because it is more expensive to have them cut down.

Yesterday's hearing was contentious from the beginning, as many attending felt they weren't notified of its date soon enough.

Originally scheduled for March 10, board members said they needed to hold the hearing yesterday because board member Evelyn Tanner is retiring next month and an all-day hearing was more convenient.

"At the last hearing, the board said the earliest date was March 10," Huber said. "Then we have one today? The change should have been discussed with us."

Huber asked the board to reschedule the hearing. Board members refused, however, saying that they provided ample time for opponents to prepare.

While yesterday's hearing concentrated on one proposed complex, residents said it reflected their broader fears about development in western Howard.

"The country atmosphere we so cherished coming out here is being eroded," said William Jordan of Glenwood.

Pub Date: 1/25/98

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