Zoning Board backs seniors housing plan

Panel votes unanimously to rezone 12.4-acre site

`No legal basis for change'

In a twist, neighbors support the developer

Elkridge

July 30, 2002|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Howard County's Zoning Board cleared the way yesterday for a large seniors-only condo complex in Elkridge, a proposal cheered by neighbors and jeered by the county's planners.

The board voted unanimously to rezone the 12.4-acre site from one commercial designation to another - a change that will allow 100 Investment Limited Partnership to develop the land for active adults ages 55 and older.

Rezonings generally spark community opposition. This one prompted an outpouring of support from neighborhood groups, who liked the idea of residential development instead of office towers.

"Oh, good," Elkridge resident Howard Weinstein said when he heard about yesterday's vote. "Now we just hope that the developer gets to build what they say they want to build."

The site is south of Marshalee Drive in the Lyndwood community, across the street from about 360 homes.

Howard Resneck, the project manager, said 100 Investment Limited Partnership should soon finish negotiating with a builder to construct roughly 243 apartment-style condominium units, spread among nine buildings with elevators. A clubhouse is also planned.

Construction could start toward the end of next year, he said.

County planners opposed the change because they consider the site a key place for employment.

It sits near the intersection of Route 100 and Interstate 95, a "prominent" location for commercial development, said Joseph W. Rutter Jr., the county's planning director.

"There's no legal basis for the change," he added, noting that landowners have to prove that the original zoning was a mistake or that the community has been transformed. "I don't see any evidence of a mistake or a change in the character of the neighborhood."

Eileen E. Powers, the county's zoning counsel, agreed with Rutter.

"Property owners are not entitled to zoning changes just because no one opposes them," she told the Zoning Board last week.

But all five board members - who double as the County Council - believed the neighborhood had changed. A majority of the board voted the same way last year when a nearby parcel was up for rezoning.

"It would be inconsistent, in my mind," to vote otherwise this time, said board member Guy J. Guzzone.

Though he voted for the rezoning, Christopher J. Merdon said the case presented "two competing goals" - maintaining the county's share of commercially zoned land and increasing the amount of active senior housing.

"What do you want to encourage more?" he asked.

The new zoning still permits offices, but senior housing is the goal, said Resneck, who believes the neighborhood feels more residential than originally anticipated.

"Obviously, we're very pleased," he said after the vote. "And it was very nice to come into a hearing with the homeowners in agreement."

Resneck expects senior housing would account for a quarter to a third of the traffic that would be generated by a similarly dense office complex - a big selling point for the surrounding community.

"It should go well with the neighborhood," said Andrew Bonavitacola, president of the Lyndwood Homeowners Association. "We'd prefer to see active adult housing."

"It allows residential development without infringing on the schools," added Craig Bruce, past president of the nearby Brightfield Section 4 Homeowners Association.

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