Residents hear plan for Manor

Erickson talk of building retirement facility in Ellicott City attracts curious seniors

December 04, 2008|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,larry.carson@baltsun.com

More than 60 people eager to learn more about the proposed $300 million Erickson retirement village proposed for Doughoregan Manor showed up before the official 6 p.m. start time at Ellicott City Senior Center on Tuesday night.

"I want to see what's going on and what they're doing," said Paul Martin, 77, who came with his wife, Jean. Like many others, they were curious about the 1,500-unit project and whether they might want to live there one day.

The Martins live across Frederick Road from the 153 acres Erickson Retirement Communities has contracted to buy from the Carroll family's historic estate, they said, and after 53 years in their house, they're thinking of moving to the retirement community, if it's built.

"I'm not anxious to get in here, but if something happens to him, I'd want a place to go," Jean Martin said, glancing at her husband.

The start of construction is a long way off, said Wayne M. Rush, regional vice president of development for Erickson Retirement Communities. That's why the firm is seeking comments from the public, hoping to refine their development plans before submitting a proposal to the county government, perhaps in the spring, he said.

"We haven't gone much further with the design until we get input from area residents," Rush said.

The firm has met with leaders of up to nine community and civic groups over the past two months, seeking comments and residents' perspectives.

As a result, Erickson has changed the placement of an access road, moving it farther from existing homes in Chateau Ridge, a 202-home community west of Centennial Lane, Rush said. A thicker buffer of woods also is planned on the Erickson tract to insulate the historic Doughoregan mansion a half-mile farther west, and the homes to the east and south of the long, narrow property.

The project is proposed at the northeastern edge of Doughoregan, an 892-acre estate bounded by Frederick Road on the north, Route 108 on the south and residential neighborhoods along the west side of Centennial Lane on the east. Access would be from Frederick Road.

The public got a first look at what Rush and attorney William E. Erskine called a preliminary concept Tuesday night at Ellicott City Senior Center.

Ed Beniak, 85, who with his wife, Eileen, 77, has lived in their home about two miles from the Erickson site since 1969, said he is researching a possible retirement move, too.

"I have a four-bedroom house, and it's getting to be too much for me," he said. "I'm really in the early stages of trying to decide what we want to do in the next move."

Same for Carleen Wagner, 88, of Dunloggin in Ellicott City, though the widow for 25 years feels more urgency.

"I don't know if I can wait that long," she said. "I just know you can't live forever."

All like Erickson's sterling reputation, the fact that 128 assisted-living spaces and 96 nursing beds, plus medical care, are proposed for the secured campus, and that the prices are lower than at some other places.

There's one other thing: "If you run out of money, they don't kick you out," said Clara Sheets, 70, who came to the meeting with her husband, Ken, 75.

That was confirmed by Jeff Bowers, a salesman for Erickson's Riderwood community in Silver Spring. He said a typical two-bedroom unit there costs a $309,000 refundable entry payment, plus $2,590 a month for a couple. Prices for Doughoregan have not been set because construction could be as much as five years away.

The conceptual plans have undergone 11 variations, Rush said, and more are likely. Meanwhile, traffic studies are under way, as are preliminary archaeological surveys. The Baltimore County-based company has developed 23 retirement communities in 13 states.

The deal is seen as making it possible for the Carroll family, descendants of Declaration of Independence signatory Charles Carroll, to preserve the nearly 300-year-old mansion, 30 other historic buildings, and more than 600 acres of the original 10,000-acre Colonial estate. The land sale would provide Camilla Carroll and brother Philip D. Carroll with money to preserve and maintain their property, while adding a relatively low-impact development to the county. The family plans to donate another 36 acres to the county to expand Kiwanis-Wallas Park.

If plans are approved and the land sale goes through, the first phase of construction would be west of Burnside Drive, in the tract's midsection, Rush said.

If the county approves an extension of public water and sewer, a zoning change to allow the planned 1,500 units with an option for 500 more and a General Plan amendment, Rush said a medical center, fitness center and indoor pool would be the first buildings to go up. Other buildings would be built as demand dictates, he said.

ERICKSON PROPOSAL

* $300 million-plus senior retirement community on 150 acres

* 1,500 units in three phases

* Option to buy another 38 acres for potentially 500 more units

* Access from Frederick Road

* Carroll family is to donate 36 acres to add to Kiwanis-Wallas Park

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