Lorien moving ahead on plans for assisted-living project But suit is delaying adjacent nursing home project in Taneytown

March 13, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

A Howard County nursing home operator hopes to start design work next month on the first phase of a 199-unit assisted-living apartment complex in Taneytown. But a lawsuit is delaying development of a planned adjoining nursing home.

In the suit, Pleasant View Nursing Home of Mount Airy charges that a state regulatory agency improperly allowed Lorien Home Health Care Inc. of Ellicott City to divide its allocation of 125 beds for a Taneytown nursing home with a Mount Airy site. The Maryland Health Resources Planning Commission authorized Lorien in July 1997 to split the allocation between a 63-bed nursing home in Taneytown and a 62-bed home in Mount Airy.

The case is scheduled to be heard in Baltimore circuit court in May.

James R. Forsyth, attorney for Maryland Health Enterprises, Lorien's parent corporation, said the scope of the Taneytown project is unchanged. Although Lorien hopes to shift some of the planned nursing home beds to Mount Airy, it will move ahead with plans to build assisted-living units in Taneytown, he said.

"The total economic value to Taneytown has not been diminished," Forsyth said. The project will cost an estimated $14 million.

Forsyth said the first phase, the apartments and nursing home, will cost $7 million to $9 million.

Assisted living is experiencing a national boom with the elderly looking for options that will allow them to delay entering nursing homes, said James R. Stanton, executive director of the health resources planning commission.

People no longer enter nursing homes to live out their lives, and some may move back and forth between assisted living and nursing homes, Stanton said.

Assisted living is "very hot and very attractive" to investors, said Bob Kramer, executive director of the Annapolis-based National

Investment Conference. An NIC survey of lenders in 1997 showed that 42 percent would be more likely to finance a health care project that was combined with assisted living, he said.

"The advantage is that assisted living extends time outside a nursing home, which is what we're trying to advocate down here, that people can age in place," said Del. Donald B. Elliott, a Republican who represents part of Carroll County. He is sponsoring a bill related to the suit affecting Lorien.

Elliott's proposal would exempt nursing home operators from having to obtain a certificate of need from the health resources planning commission in order to divide a nursing home bed allocation between two communities.

Pleasant View's lawsuit charges that the commission should have treated Lorien's request to divide the allocation as a new application, which would have required a certificate of need.

The bill would become effective after a decision is likely in the lawsuit. But if Lorien wins, the bill would bar Pleasant View from appealing to higher courts.

Elliott said the projects are important to his constituents in both communities. "I'd like to see from an economic development standpoint that we have a nursing complex not only in Mount Airy but also in Taneytown," he said.

Plans for the Mount Airy nursing home, to be built in the Wildwood Park senior housing village, would provide 84 assisted living apartments. "We have a commitment to Mount Airy. If we're forced to build just the assisted living, it's the community that is going to suffer," Forsyth said.

The trend to assisted living is already visible in Carroll County, where Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster is adding 50 assisted-living apartments as part of a $13 million plan to renovate the health care center to offer more rehabilitation services and add a wing for patients with Alzheimer's disease.

The units, scheduled to open in the fall, will be smaller than the village's apartments and equipped with microwave ovens and refrigerators, but residents will be served meals, said Hermine P. Saunders, the CLV public relations associate.

Pub Date: 3/13/98

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