$47,000 fine levied for illegal addition to unlicensed Catonsville nursing home

February 16, 2000|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County zoning official has recommended that the owner of a Catonsville assisted-living facility be fined $47,000 for defying an order to stop using an illegal addition.

Mathew Decker, owner of Rolling Meadows Assisted Living, built the 2 1/2-story addition even though permits called for a one-story structure. In addition, Decker obtained permits for a single-family home instead of a home for the elderly.

Thirteen residents live at the home at 303 N. Rolling Road.

Last month, after nearly four years of zoning and court battles, the county ordered Decker to make the illegally built top floor of the addition uninhabitable. But officials said Decker refused to make changes to the structure.

County code enforcer, Michael D. Johnson, said this week he has recommended a $47,000 fine against Decker, in addition to previous unpaid fines of $4,000. He called the fine "unusually high."

"Not only is he not in compliance, but he has defied the order of the zoning hearing officer and the zoning commissioner" by running the home without proper zoning approval, Johnson said.

"He has not even gotten his occupancy permit" for the addition, Johnson said.

Attempts to reach Decker for comment were unsuccessful.

Fred Cascio, who lives next door to the home, expressed frustration that it has been operating illegally for four years. "It looks like a hotel," he said of the addition.

The owners are "flouting everything we've worked for and won. It's really sad," said Cascio, referring to the neighborhood's fight against Decker's addition.

In addition to the zoning violations, the home continues to operate without a license from the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

But Carol Benner, director of the state's Office of Health Care Quality, said a previous Circuit Court ruling allows the owners to keep the facility operating until all zoning appeals have been resolved. She said state inspectors are monitoring the facility and have found no "quality issues" or complaints involving patient care.

"It doesn't make sense to take people out of a place where they're getting good care and put them out on the street while waiting to resolve a zoning issue," said Benner.

A county zoning officer is scheduled to hold a hearing on the proposed fine March 21. The officer can uphold the fine, increase it or reduce it, Johnson said.

"This case is unusual in the fact that most people you can work with, you can get compliance with a handshake," he said "But these folks have deliberately avoided compliance."

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