County closer to buying New Colony Village lots

Resolution's OK not soon enough for some owners


December 12, 2003|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

A group of Elkridge homeowners may soon be able to sell or refinance their houses, thanks to Howard's housing commission, which approved a resolution last night to purchase the 23 acres on which the homes sit.

But it is not soon enough for residents of New Colony Village, who own what look like traditional houses with porches and basements - but rent the land under them.

"When we go to bed at night, we only have half the American dream," said Sue Hartlaub, who fought back tears after the meeting. She and her husband sold their Glen Burnie townhouse to purchase their $193,000 home in New Colony last year.

Hartlaub and the other owners of the 227 manufactured homes in New Colony are in an unusual situation, created to provide affordable housing in pricey Howard County, where the average cost of new homes tops $300,000.

Lenders are reluctant to finance homes on leased land, but homeowners could not buy their lots. The houses are on one large parcel that originally could not be subdivided because each lot would be smaller than the minimum allowed by Howard County regulations. As a result, the homes are nearly impossible to resell or refinance.

In May, the County Council provided relief, approving a bill to reduce the minimum lot size for neighborhoods such as New Colony, thus making the commission's purchase possible.

During its meeting last night, members of the quasi-governmental housing commission examined the second part of the solution - a resolution detailing an agreement to purchase the land from New Colony developer Wayne Newsome.

The resolution states that if issues such as obtaining adequate liability insurance, completion of a stormwater management pond and approval of the subdivision procedure by the Department of Planning and Zoning can be resolved by the time of the commission's meeting next month, the commission would purchase the land for about $15 million.

Although the land is assessed at a much higher value, the remaining equity would be transferred to the commission as a charitable donation by Newsome. The commission would pass the savings onto each buyer of the lots, said the commission's executive director, Leonard S. Vaughan.

If the 2,000- to 3,000-square- foot lots are not purchased immediately, prices for them likely would be increased by $5,000 every six months until reaching market rate, Vaughan said.

According to county law, the land must be subdivided before it can be sold. Getting each individual parcel approved will take time, Vaughan said. During the meeting, Newsome asked the commission to write a letter to the Department of Planning and Zoning requesting that it expedite the process.

"We've moved mountains to get where we are. Now there are just anthills in our way," he said.

Residents were disappointed to find out they would have to wait another month. Commission members had considered the acquisition at their meeting last month, but postponed a vote on the resolution to wait for more information.

"I am very discouraged at the amount of time that this is taking," said resident Kristina M. Sakash.

There are 22 military families in her community who were forced to abandon their properties when transferred because they cannot be sold quickly, she said. One couple who moved because of a military transfer had two mortgages to pay while waiting for the subdivision, but lost the New Colony house to foreclosure three weeks ago.

Vaughan also discussed the plans of the owners of Aladdin Village to rezone and develop the Elkridge mobile home park, which would ultimately displace residents of its 241 homes. Vaughan said he is asking for funds to conduct a relocation study with the Department of Planning and Zoning.

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