Empty nesters, packed schools

Carroll County: Eldersburg senior housing complex overburdens volunteer county services.

February 29, 2000

FIRE and ambulance services, already under great strain in rapidly growing Southeast Carroll, would be overburdened by the addition of a proposed 265-unit retirement community in Eldersburg.

That's one major reason why the Board of Zoning Appeals should reject the petition of Altieri Homes to build that complex on 27 acres of conservation-zoned land.

While the county has added paid emergency medical staff to help, the Sykesville-Freedom District volunteer fire department still uses volunteers to shoulder the mounting needs of the community.

Last year, the department handled 2,000 calls, half of them to elderly facilities.

The pressure on emergency services has been growing in South Carroll and across the Baltimore County border. Some 300 more units are planned there.

The reason for this boom in elderly housing is that developers face limits on constructing single-family dwellings by Carroll County law that pegs growth to local school capacities. South Carroll has overcrowded schools, so builders target new home owners without children. Retirement facilities are a permitted conditional use in conservation zones. The BZA is holding a hearing on whether to grant approval.

Another serious concern about the project is that the housing units are not irrevocably reserved for senior citizens; they are individually owned homes that could be sold to subsequent owners with children, with direct impact on local school capacity.

The complex says it will have little effect on water use, a resource in short supply in South Carroll that forces bans each summer. The complex would have only one entrance to public roads, a troubling deficiency.

Together with the undeniable extra burden on paramedic and ambulance, these concerns argue for the enforced retirement of the Altieri project by the BZA.

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