Board again debates senior housing plan

Revised proposal for Cattail Creek site includes dining area

September 28, 2001|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

It's been a long, circular trip for a much-contested proposal for upscale, seniors-only housing in western Howard County - which wended its way back to the county Board of Appeals last night after several stints in court.

The Villas at Cattail Creek, which would bring 116 townhouse-style condo units to 58 acres near Cattail Creek Country Club in Glenwood, was originally approved by the board in 1998. To the delight of residents who oppose the project, the Circuit Court overturned that decision, finding that the project lacked the common dining area required by county zoning regulations.

But developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr. won a minor victory in June by getting the state Court of Special Appeals to send the plans back to the county board so he could fix the dining area issue there.

Last night, the board considered his proposed dining area - which doesn't have a kitchen but will have access to regular catering by Nixon's Farm in West Friendship, Reuwer said. He told the board that the 3,000-square-foot community area would also have a refrigerator, microwave and sink.

"That's consistent with what you'll find in other senior projects in Howard County," he said.

He testified that the dining area would not increase traffic, waste or water usage in the neighborhood because only residents would be allowed to come in.

"Does that mean the residents will not be able to have birthday parties and things for their friends here?" asked attorney Susan Gray, who represents one of the opponents.

"Yes," Reuwer answered.

The board had not voted by 9 p.m. yesterday. But Reuwer said before the meeting that he doesn't expect another battle because only one issue - the dining area - is at stake. "Should be the end of it," he said. "The Circuit Court upheld the board's ruling on all other points."

Residents aren't ruling out an appeal. "We're just going to fight it with any means possible," said Dave Hinton, a Glenwood resident who lives a mile from the site.

"If we can fight this successfully, that will send a signal to builders that they should propose responsible developments in the area instead of trying to change the rules," he said. "Every time they [intend to] build something, the first thing they do is apply for a special exception."

The Glenwood parcel is zoned for one single-family house per 4.25 acres, but Reuwer can build up to 116 townhouses if he wins the exception he's seeking. The rules are designed to increase housing for active retirees, whom officials want to keep in the county because they contribute tax revenue while requiring fewer services than younger families.

While he was waiting for the appeals court to rule on his condo proposal, Reuwer filed - and won approval for - an alternative plan: 25 large houses for seniors on 19 acres of the parcel. But he said he prefers to build the townhouses.

Gray asked board members last night to dismiss the case before them, arguing that Reuwer lost his opportunity to build townhouses on the site when the board approved the plan for 25 houses. "I do not believe this is a legal proceeding," she said.

The board voted 5-0 to deny her motion after she acknowledged that she could not point to county provisions that specifically restrict the panel from hearing such a case.

Reuwer, before the meeting, contended that buyers prefer townhouses. He said houses would sell for as much as $700,000, while townhouses would retail for $300,000 to $400,000.

"The original one is what the market wants," he said. "We probably have close to a hundred people on the waiting list for that, and it's a really super project."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.