Panel backs senior homes

Planning Board recommends OK for housing proposal

`Floating district'

Goal of new zoning is to retain taxpayers who are older, active

November 16, 2001|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

The first proposed development to take advantage of a new "floating district" for active senior housing - a regulation designed to keep these taxpayers from leaving Howard County - met with good reviews from the Planning Board yesterday.

Developer Donald R. Reuwer Jr., the project manager, envisions 325 dwelling units on the 54-acre parcel, a mix of townhouses and apartments surrounded by the Waverly Woods golf course near Interstate 70 in Ellicott City. Almost 75 percent of the land would be open space, according to the plans, and 11 percent of the homes would be subsidized for moderate-income seniors.

"It couldn't be a more ideal site, nestled within a golf course," said David Carney, an attorney for the project. "I think you'll find we will be retaining longtime residents of the county who want to stay here."

County planners and the Planning Board recommended approval. County Council members, who double as the Zoning Board, will consider the case later. A date has not been scheduled.

In May, the County Council added the option of a Planned Senior Community floating district - an overlay zone that can be used where public water and sewer are available in Howard County if the conditions are right. Council members anticipate a growing need for such housing, which is restricted to people ages 55 and older. The county's over-65 population is expected to more than double from 7 percent to 16 percent by 2020.

The new legislation allows developers to build senior housing in such overlay zones at much greater density than would otherwise be permitted.

But young senior citizens are looking to move out of large houses and into smaller places kept up by condominium associations, said Joseph W. Rutter Jr., the county's planning director. The few places in Howard designed for them have sold quickly, he said.

"There's a tremendous market for it," he said.

Rutter thinks Reuwer's proposal fits in perfectly with the new zoning rules. "It's like the regulations were written for it," he said.

The plans show 129 townhouse-style buildings called "garage villas," named for the one-car garages on interior units and two-car garages on the ends. Elsewhere in the development, Reuwer wants to build 196 apartments, divided among 13 three- or four-story buildings. All the units would have amenities that aging residents might appreciate, from wide doors to bathroom grab bars.

Each entrance to the community - one on Marriottsville Road and one to the east, on a still-unbuilt road proposed for a separate housing development - will have a security gatehouse.

Reuwer's plans also call for a 3,300-square-foot community center and an outdoor pool, which did not strike board member Gary Kaufman as the best design for senior citizens.

He said he thought that the center would be too small for so many residents, and he was bothered that the pool would be available only during warm months.

"There's no facilities there for these middle-aged, elderly people for the wintertime," Kaufman said, suggesting a pool with a domed top.

Reuwer said he was not certain seniors would want to pay extra condo fees to have an indoor pool, but he promised to get market research on the idea.

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