Age-restricted housing near Savage advances

May 14, 2006|BY A SUN REPORTER

A former mobile home park near Savage, described by neighbors as dilapidated and a possible magnet for crime, will be transformed into an upscale, age-restricted compound overlooking the Middle Branch Patuxent River.

The project, named River View, would include a minimum of 58 units and as many as 87, according to the developers.

The development would be built on 7.5 acres along Gorman Road, where the Ev-Mar Mobile Home Park stood. The last of its residents were evicted three months ago.

River View cleared the first of several hurdles Thursday evening when the Planning Board unanimously approved rezoning of the property to a planned senior community.

The owner and developer, Gorman Crossing LLC, includes Paul M. Revelle, president of Revellopment Inc., and Dale Thompson, president of luxury Dale Thompson Builders.

Age-restricted housing -- units reserved for people ages 55 or older -- is a hot commodity, reflecting a profound demographic shift that is projected to double that age group by 2030 and constitute one-third of Howard County's population.

Meeting the anticipated needs of those retired or nearing retirement has made age-restricted housing the largest segment in county's building industry, and there are no signs of that market cooling.

Revelle, in an interview, said he is not worried about saturation. "... In this part of the county, there is none," he said. "The second thing is, while there is a wave of it coming, we think that the demographics of Howard County, with a large, aging boomer population, the demand will be greater than the supply."

Barring delays in the regulatory process, the development is probably 18 months from breaking ground, Revelle said. It will "be 2 1/2 to three years" before families move in, he said.

The project would include at least 12 attached villas and 46 apartment-style condominiums. It is possible the number of condos could increase to 75.

Revelle said, "It's a guess," but he estimated that the villas will cost in the $600,000s and the condos in the $400,000s.

The property is north of Gorman Road, about 100 feet west of Horsham Drive, and almost exactly in the center between Interstate 95 and U.S. 1. It includes wooded areas, all of which would be preserved, the developers say.

Frank Laumann, whose home is near the proposed development, said he wants the developer to buffer his home from the 60-foot-tall condo buildings. He said he envisions a "monstrosity looking down at me."

Judy Fisher George, whose home is across the street from the site, endorsed River View. She said the property has been "poorly maintained" and that neighbors believe it is ripe to attract "drugs and the criminal element," especially with warmer months approaching.

George said she is "in favor of the development" and said the project should add "stability" to the area because the residents will own their units. Board Chairwoman Tammy J. CitaraManis described the project as "very well planned. ... It sounds like this is a good product."

The board also approved:

A site development plan by Patriot Homes to build 79 age-restricted units at Snowden River Business Park, near Dobbin Road and Dried Earth Boulevard.

A preliminary equivalent sketch plan for 14 single-family, detached homes on property adjacent to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, off Landing Road in Elkridge.

An amendment to the zoning regulations to permit age-restricted, "multiplex" senior housing. Those developments would appear to be single-family homes but actually contain four units. No more than one building per acre could be constructed, with a maximum of five buildings.

The Planning Board also endorsed a measure by Marsha S. McLaughlin, director of the Department of Planning and Zoning, intended to assist people to qualify for moderate-income housing.

In the measure, eligibility would be based upon the median income of Howard County, instead of the Baltimore metropolitan region. Also, it would qualify people who earn 40 percent to 80 percent of the median income instead of beginning at 50 percent.

The exclusion of so many people from living in the county because of soaring housing prices is a growing concern of officials.

The median income in Howard County, McLaughlin said, is $82,000. A family of four would qualify for moderate-income housing if it earned between $33,000 and $66,000 a year.

That compares with a range of $36,000 and $58,000 by using the greater metropolitan area as the basis for calculation, she said. Board member H. Gregory Tornatore characterized the change as "a good first step," but urged the county to aggressively search for ways to make housing more affordable.

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