Septic system now sought in seniors housing plan

Developers change gears, had wanted a sewer hook-up

March 23, 2001|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

The juncture of Route 144 and Marriottsville Road may technically be in the county's rural west, but the area is already so developed that adding a large retirement community won't make much difference, a developer testified last night.

Columbia-based Brantly Development Corp. and LDR International want to build 146 housing units for active senior citizens on 73 acres at the northeast corner of the intersection -- 74 single-family detached homes and 72 attached homes with four units per building.

"As we all know, seniors' numbers continue to grow," Fred Jarvis, an architect with LDR International, told the county Board of Appeals. "This is an excellent site for this kind of use. ... The character of this area is no longer rural and farming. It's changed to mostly residential. We believe this fits in very well with the community."

The application has drawn attention because the site near Turf Valley is just outside the county's public sewer service area, whose boundaries the county has restricted to slow growth in rural sectors.

It is served by public water, which the county extended to the area in 1993 after concerns arose about well-water contamination from the nearby Alpha Ridge landfill.

In their application to the county, the developers said they would prefer to have the site served by public sewer.

But extending sewer lines would require the approval of the County Council, and two members, Allan H. Kittleman, a western county Republican, and Guy Guzzone, a Savage-North Laurel Democrat, have opposed bringing sewer service to the site, noting the county's goal of focusing development in the east.

Last night, the developers switched gears, saying they were now planning to serve their community with septic tanks, though they haven't designed the septic system.

If the county eventually decides to bring sewer lines to the site, as its long-range plans indicate it might, then the community could hook up at that point, said John Liparini, president of Brantly.

Liparini said that the land at the site was ideal for septic tanks, although nearby residents have had trouble with their septic systems.

In recommending against the proposal this month, Joseph W. Rutter Jr., Howard's director of planning and zoning, noted a county Health Department finding that serving the development with only a septic system would be difficult.

The developers' dropping of the sewer request didn't mollify a dozen or so opponents of the plan, who said they were most concerned about the density of the proposed community.

They noted Rutter's finding that the development would be "conspicuously out of character" with the area.

"Our opposition is based around the density issue," said Bill Fiacco, a resident of the nearby Brantwood subdivision.

The proposed senior community would be accessible from Route 144 and would include walking trails, a clubhouse and more than 500 parking spaces.

Jarvis argued that nearby developments like Terra Maria were almost as dense as the proposed complex would be.

"This would have smaller home sites, but more open space," he said.

Late last night, the board had yet to hear testimony from opponents. The hearing will be continued next month.

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