Senior complex gets nod

Planning Board approves rezoning for compound in Ellicott City

April 09, 2006|BY A SUN REPORTER

A sprawling, multimillion-dollar senior housing compound has cleared an important hurdle and, unless demand is more tepid than expected, seems almost certain to be constructed in Ellicott City.

The project would be quite different than most of the senior housing developments that have proliferated in the county in the past five years in that it would not rely on excess luxury to lure residents, but on guaranteed long-term care.

The development - Lutheran Village at Miller's Grant - would include almost 300 housing units spanning 50 acres, fronted by Frederick Road, near the county's first permanent library and senior center in Ellicott City.

The complex would include:

Thirty-six single-family detached homes.

Forty-eight townhouse-style apartments.

Two hundred apartments in three- and four-story structures.

A 60-bed assisted-care complex.

The development got a boost Thursday night when the Planning Board unanimously approved rezoning of the property to accommodate senior housing.

The rezoning is still subject to consent by the Zoning Board, which consists of the five County Council members. But there does not appear to be any substantive issues that would prevent approval.

The Department of Planning and Zoning endorsed the rezoning application.

The $100 million project would be built in phases and, when completed, would be patterned after the Carroll Lutheran Village in Westminster.

Gary K. Miliken, president and chief executive officer of the Westminster operation and in charge of the proposed project in Howard County, said there is "more than adequate demand" for the housing units.

He said previously that he hoped to have the necessary county permits before November's general election. Construction would begin shortly thereafter and would take about three years. He said Thursday that construction would not begin until there were commitments for at least 65 percent of the units, because residents pay an up-front "entrance fee" and monthly fees to reside in the village and receive all of its services, but they do not purchase their homes.

In Westminster, the entrance fee ranges from $50,000 to $400,000.

The fees help cover services such as meals, trash and snow removal, utilities, membership to the fitness club, painting, roof repair and appliance repair or replacement.

Most residents, Miliken said in an interview in October, select an eight-year plan, after which they pay no rent.

"It's like prepaying," Miliken said, "because there is a diminishing amount of equity. After eight years, that amount goes to zero."

The development, he told the Planning Board, "is designed for aging in place," and provides services in recognition that some residents will need to move from independent quarters to assisted care.

The name Miller's Grant reflects both that the land was once part of the Miller farm, and that it was donated - or "granted" - principally by Paul Miller.

"We are not a developer who builds and walks away. Our tradition has been outreach to serve the broader community," Miliken said. "... We will be integral with the community."

Several members of the public who live near where the development would be located praised the developer for listening to their concerns.

"They have been very accommodating to us," said Diane Butler. "They are trying to work with us on everything we bring to them."

Board member David Grabowski said the development "fits in with the Route 40 revitalization plan [and] it fits in with the community. They do it right."

Board member H. Gregory Tornatore said the development would be "a real addition and something the county could use."

The project reflects the transformation of the county. The segment of people 55 years and older is projected to increase to almost 100,000 people and will make up almost one-third of the county's population by 2030, twice what it is today.

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