Panel to seek legal advice on housing rejection appeal

Group weighs options after senior apartments in Ellicott City were opposed

June 16, 1999|By Alice Lukens | Alice Lukens,SUN STAFF

About two weeks after its plan for a senior housing complex in historic Ellicott City was rejected, the Howard County Housing Commission discussed last night whether to appeal the decision, reapply for the same site in a year or find another parcel of land for the project.

The panel decided to get a recommendation from a lawyer on its chances of winning an appeal in Circuit Court and take up the matter at its next meeting in July.

"This is getting to be, in terms of time, a very expensive 12 units of housing," said Leonard Vaughn, executive director of the county Department of Housing and Community Development.

This month, the county Historic District Commission rejected plans for the 12-unit Tiber Hudson Senior Housing off Main Street because, it said, the building would be too big and ruin the small-town flavor of Ellicott City.

Senior citizens age 62 and older with yearly incomes between $9,000 and $25,000 would have occupied the building.

Vaughn criticized opponents, saying that regardless of their purported objections, they just don't want housing for senior citizens in their community.

"To my dismay, and to the dismay of others, we are finding a growing opposition to senior housing," he said.

Vaughn said the state Department of Housing and Community Development has more than $500,000 "readily available" for the project. He said the county could lose that funding as a result of the Historic District Commission's ruling.

"The state is going to be hard-pressed to keep holding that money for us," he said. "We may end up having to give up that money and reapply for funding."

The housing commission could submit new plans to the historic district panel in a year, but Vaughn said he thinks it is unlikely revised plans would be approved.

Vaughn was also pessimistic about finding another site for the project.

"Finding suitable land in Howard County is not an easy task," he said.

Three years ago, Vaughn's team proposed that the senior citizen housing complex be built on another site off Main Street. The historic district panel approved the county's plans for that location, but a group of residents appealed the decision in Circuit Court. The case has not been heard.

The need for affordable senior housing in the county is growing, said Duane St. Clair, assistant administrator of the county Office on Aging.

Between 1990 and 2015, he said, the senior population in Howard is expected to more than triple. About 25,000 residents age 60 and older live in the county, St. Clair said.

"There are waiting lists for subsidized units," he said.

Sun staff writer Gady Epstein contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 6/16/99

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