2 firms plan sites for seniors

Move comes after council fosters `continuing care'

March 07, 2007|By Dan Lamothe | Dan Lamothe,Sun Reporter

At least two retirement community companies are looking to expand in Anne Arundel County to capitalize on a new law that encourages the construction of "continuing care" facilities.

Erickson Retirement Communities of Baltimore and Regency Park in Gambrills are interested in building a combination of independent and assisted-living homes and nursing homes to meet the soaring demand, John S. Pantelides, a consultant for the companies, said yesterday.

Other companies also have approached him about developing similar facilities, he said, but he would not disclose their names.

The comments came a day after the County Council unanimously passed a bill that eases zoning restrictions on assisted-living facilities, allowing them in commercial office and general commercial zoning districts. Previously, the county allowed nursing homes and senior housing complexes, but not assisted living - the middle level of care - in the two zones.

County Executive John R. Leopold is expected to sign the legislation.

"The challenge that everybody is facing is finding land that they can put one of these facilities on," Pantelides said. "This [bill] provides another tool in the toolbox to find some property to do this on."

Councilman Edward R. Reilly of Crofton, who proposed the bill, said it will help senior care facilities that were previously unwilling to do business in the county.

Developers will be required to include at least two of the three levels of care in any new project, Reilly said.

"It doesn't allow someone to come in and break ground for just one" level of care, he said. "It allows it only in cases where a continuum of care" is provided.

There are two continuing-care retirement communities in Anne Arundel County: Ginger Cove and Bay Woods, both in Annapolis. Senior advocates said there is frequently a waiting list to get in.

"It opens up another opportunity to build these much-needed facilities in Anne Arundel County," said Albert Johnston of Severna Park, an advocate on senior issues. "We are horrendously short on continuing-care facilities, and this gives us a legal basis to do it."

Danna Kauffman, vice president of public policy for Mid-Atlantic Lifespan, an alliance of 300 senior care providers, said it is important for communities to plan senior developments because the over-65 population in Maryland is growing so quickly.

"With the population boom that is going to be occurring, we need to make sure we have enough housing possibilities available to meet that demand," she said.

Mid-Atlantic Lifespan estimates that Maryland's over-65 population will more than double between 2000 and 2030, from about 600,000 to 1.33 million, Kauffman said.

According to 2005 census figures, 10.6 percent of the county's 510,878 residents, or 54,153 people, were age 65 or older.

Sherry Ainsworth, executive director of Regency Park, said Anne Arundel's legislation is going to help families of aging loved ones make decisions about their future.

"Families are so concerned when they have to find facilities for seniors ... and it can be even more traumatic when they need to do it a second time," she said. "It's going to make quite a difference."

Ainsworth referred questions about the company's plans to the owners, who could not be reached for comment. Erickson officials also could not be reached for comment.

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