Maryland's highest court has upheld a local judge's ruling that a Columbia village committee acted properly when it denied the owners of a local assisted-living home the right to operate one of their two facilities in Wilde Lake village - a decision that will eventually force the home to close.
In its opinion, the Maryland Court of Appeals said Howard County Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr.'s rulings in the case, which pitted Wilde Lake against local operator Richard Colandrea and his mother, Carmen Colandrea, and hinged on neighborhood covenant regulations, were proper.
"The trial court neither erred nor abused its discretion," the judges wrote.
The Colandreas had argued that Wilde Lake violated federal housing law by discriminating against the elderly, but Kane ruled that the covenants applied in the case - and the people who applied them - were not discriminatory.
Kane had spent time hearing the evidence and decided the covenants were "applied fairly and in good faith," despite claims of discrimination, said David H. Bamberger, who represented Wilde Lake and the Columbia Association in the lawsuit.
"This is simply a community that is reasonably and properly concerned about the impact the business is having on the surrounding community," he said.
The appellate decision is part of a protracted legal fight between Wilde Lake and the Colandreas, who run two eight-bed assisted-living homes on Waterfowl Terrace. Confronted with two license applications for two facilities, the Wilde Lake Village Board granted a business license for one in 1996 - and sued to shut down the other.
Bamberger said his clients did not want to evict the residents living at the second house; they just wanted the business phased out, he said.
The effect has been a dwindling population at one of the two Bryant Woods Inns, said Carmen Colandrea. There are now two people living there, and it has become "economically unfeasible" to maintain round-the-clock care for them, she said. The Colandreas said they have abided by Kane's 1999 ruling and have not accepted new residents.
Carmen Colandrea began using her house as a group home for the elderly about a decade and a half ago, after she began caring for her mother at home. A second home opened a few years later.
But in the 1990s, Wilde Lake officials said that although the sites were homes, they also were businesses and needed to be licensed. That decision led to a series of local and federal lawsuits.
One Bryant Woods facility was approved for a license and the other was refused. The village board noted noise, traffic and trash concerns in declining to grant the second license.
Carmen Colandrea said yesterday that as the home's population has dwindled, the two remaining residents have been forced into a sort of isolation. She chalked the controversy up to a "not in my back yard" reaction.
"The sad thing is these people will get old themselves and it looks like there'll be no room at the inn," she said.