Developer changes Cattail Creek proposal for seniors-only housing

25 detached houses on 19.5 acres sought

September 21, 2000|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

In a new twist, a developer who has tried for three years to build senior citizen condominiums in western Howard County has changed his proposal - opting for single-family homes.

The amended plans for the Villas at Cattail Creek call for 25 detached, single-family houses on 19.5 acres in Glenwood, still for senior citizens only.

They were submitted Tuesday, two days before the county Board of Appeals was to have heard testimony on Donald R. Reuwer Jr.'s earlier proposal for the site: 116 townhouse-style condo units on 58 acres.

The detached houses in his new proposal still would be condominiums because homeowners would not own the land or maintain it, Reuwer said.

Board of Appeals members postponed the case until Dec. 14, and the plans will be heard first by the county Planning Board. A date for the Planning Board meeting had not been set.

Glenwood residents fought the original proposal, saying it was too large for rural western Howard, which doesn't have public water and sewerage. They contended that the development's septic systems could fail, contaminating the Triadelphia Reservoir.

Reuwer has maintained that his septic systems would not be in danger of failing. But he said yesterday that he wanted to appease residents who didn't like the idea of 116 condos.

"I think we've taken the first step; we've held out the olive branch," he said. "It's a heck of a compromise."

He said he is proposing to build on 19.5 acres rather than the 58-acre parcel because the idea of single-family homes for senior citizens is "untested in the market."

"I think it'll be fine, but I didn't want to commit to more than 25," Reuwer said. "If all goes well, then we could continue this."

Susan Gray, attorney for one of the residents opposing the villas, said she was not impressed by the changes and doesn't consider them significant.

"What you're seeing is just a piece of the plan," she said, referring to Reuwer's ability to develop more of the 58-acre parcel later. "This is a shell game."

Residents contacted yesterday were surprised to hear about the revised plans and said they had not seen them. But Glenwood resident Dave Hinton said the change appears to satisfy only one of the opponents' two major concerns.

While the development is no longer high-density, the buildings would still share septic systems, he said. The proposal calls for two septic fields.

"It's half the battle but not the whole thing," he said, adding: "I think it is moving in the right direction."

The history of the Villas at Cattail Creek is long and circuitous. Reuwer presented plans for 116 condo units on 58 acres in 1997. Two years ago, the Board of Appeals granted a special exception to allow construction.

Residents appealed the decision to county Circuit Court, and Judge Lenore R. Gelfman ruled in January that the board erred because a planned common dining area did not meet county zoning regulations. Under the original plans, villa residents would have used a dining facility at nearby Cattail Creek Country Club.

Reuwer appealed Gelfman's decision to the state Court of Special Appeals and also developed plans with a common dining area that would not serve food. The Howard County Planning Board recommended in May that the Board of Appeals approve the revised proposal.

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