A proposal to impose new limits on construction of senior communities in Howard County will be tabled by the County Council until next month to allow senior advocates time to suggest changes.
Ellicott City-Elkridge Councilman Christopher J. Merdon initially proposed increasing from 20 to 50 the minimum number of units for each age-restricted housing project for people age 55 and older - a change that would limit senior developments to a smaller number of larger parcels.
Merdon acted after residents in one Ellicott City neighborhood protested construction of a senior townhouse complex close to their developments of traditional single-family homes. The neighbors complained the senior project would destroy the character of their community.
But members of the county Commission on Aging challenged Merdon's planned amendment to 2001 legislation designed to promote construction of senior housing. They said his changes would sharply reduce the amount of land available for senior housing without regard for the housing needs of the estimated 69,000 county residents who will be older than age 60 by 2020.
Merdon said he was willing to listen to what the senior advocates had to say.
"I want to put through legislation that makes sense and has wide support," he said. "If it takes an extra month I'm willing to wait."
While Merdon weighs possible changes in his proposal to control senior housing construction, a longer-term effort to assess senior housing needs in Howard and how to meet them is getting under way.
From a planning perspective "there's no argument" about the need for senior housing, said Aging Commission chairman Michael Davis. "The question is, how do we accommodate them?"
Staff from several county departments, including Citizen Services, Planning and Zoning and Public Works, hope to answer that question. They met Friday to create "a common agenda for the development of senior housing throughout all of Howard County," said Manus O'Donnell, citizen services director, who organized the meeting.
O'Donnell said that in coming months the group will gather input from staff and appointed boards to make recommendations for the county executive and council to use as guidelines for future legislation.
Attorneys for the developer and residents made final arguments in their case March 31.