The tortuous legislative road that led to construction of 106 rental apartments for limited-income residents ends Tuesday with a celebratory ribbon-cutting for Ellicott Gardens, the only residential property in Howard County with its own wind turbine to generate power.
County Housing Director Stacy L. Spann said 41 tenants have been approved and 14 have moved in, though applications have been accepted only since late August.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in the Sept. 13 edition of the Howard County section about the opening of the Ellicott Gardens apartments for limited- income people incorrectly characterized community attitudes toward the project. There was criticism of plans for the 106-unit building expressed at a meeting of 28 people held by the developer in 2006 on the site of the project.
The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.
County workers, people displaced from mobile home parks and employees of nonprofits receive preference.
"What we really have a shortage of is [housing] stock for small families," he said noting that the one- and two-bedroom apartments at Ellicott Gardens will serve single adults and couples with up to two children.
Developer/contractor Jared Spahn said his company donated the turbine to help fulfill his promise to make the building environmentally friendly and to test its use with residential units. The electricity it produces will reduce utility costs for the Howard County Housing Commission, which owns the building and can then pass along the savings to residents.
The facility boasts community space for a computer lab, fitness activities, meetings and laundry, plus an outdoor playground for children. Each apartment is equipped with new appliances.
Spahn said his firm made about 4 percent profit on the $17.4 million project.
Financing was obtained through a combination of federal, state and county housing programs, and the land was donated by Stuart J. Greenebaum, the developer of upscale Maple Lawn, as a way to fulfill his promise to provide some limited-income housing, though county zoning laws did not require it.
Ellicott Gardens residents do not receive subsidies but will pay lower-than-market rents.
Rent at Ellicott Gardens will range from $638 to $784 a month for the 693-square-foot one-bedroom apartments and is $946 a month for the 1,032-square-foot two-bedroom units. To be eligible, prospective renters may earn up to $19,140 for one person or up to $49,260 for a family of four.
The 3.38-acre property on Waterloo Road near Route 100 was the subject of County Council debate nearly two years ago and represents the last example of an affordable housing policy allowing concentrations of below-market-price units, which the county now avoids.
"It is a beautiful project. It's really very impressive," said Councilwoman Courtney Watson, an Ellicott City Democrat who raised questions about the project two years ago.
Watson and Fulton Republican Greg Fox were critical of the Ellicott Gardens plan, under which the county Housing Commission was to partner with private developers to obtain state tax credits to use commercially zoned land for residential purposes. The County Council finally compromised by restricting the practice and unanimously approved legislation allowing the project to go forward.
There was no community opposition to the project, which is situated in Democrat Calvin Ball's East Columbia district.
"I think it's a great resource," Ball said. "It demonstrates the county's commitment to full-spectrum housing."
Andre DeVerneil, a member of the county's Interfaith Coalition for Affordable Housing and the Full Spectrum Housing Coalition, said that he too is pleased, though his group prefers to see below-market units mixed with those without cost controls.
"You don't look a gift horse in the mouth," he said. "It's something to celebrate."
When conceived more than three years ago, the facility was to be for seniors, but county officials said that market was being served and that low-income housing was needed for people of all ages.
Although 90 of the apartments have one bedroom and 16 have two, meaning that most residents will be single adults or couples, Watson pushed hard for a small playground for children.
"I'm really proud of what we put there," said Spahn, who said the project was finished 90 days early.
He said the building has green features aside from the wind turbine, including a white roof that reflects heat, energy-saving windows and appliances, and low-flow plumbing fixtures.
"We really want it to be a cohesive, vibrant community," he said.