The developer of a planned affordable-housing community in Glen Burnie will start construction on the project next month, after the Anne Arundel County Council voted to grant the company a key tax break on the project.

The council's 4-3 vote on the tax break for New York-based Conifer Realty allows the 36-unit project to move forward, despite complaints from residents who said the development has the potential to bring more crime to the area and decrease property values.

Those assertions were voiced by County Councilman John J. Grasso, who represents the Glen Burnie area and has said it already has an abundant stock of low-income housing. The Republican said the project would be a "cancer" in the community and that the low rents indicated that renters wouldn't be "quality people," — comments that Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Democrat, has rejected as "crazy."

Before Monday night's vote, Grasso, who opposed the tax break, said, "Glen Burnie has gone to the ghetto. If people wanted to live in Baltimore City, they'd move over there. But no, they want to live in Glen Burnie."

The $10 million project, called Marley Meadows, will be located in the 7700 block of Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd., and has been granted a $500,000 loan from Arundel Community Development Services, a quasi-public agency. Additionally, the developer has received a $3 million loan from the state Department of Housing and Community Development that was contingent on approval of the $5,000 annual county tax break.

Patrick Wagner, vice president at Conifer and director of its Maryland office in Columbia, said he was pleased with the council's vote. Wagner said construction is slated to begin next month. The project is set to be completed in a year.

"We plan to continue to work with the community cooperatively to address community concerns," Wagner said.

Nancy Rase, president of the Anne Arundel Affordable Housing Coalition, testified before the council and said that Conifer has a good reputation for maintaining its properties in Maryland, including a development in Cambridge located near similar low-income housing that the coalition oversees.

"Conifer has an excellent reputation," said Rase. "Their properties are well-managed."

But residents of the Sun Valley community, located near Marley Meadows, weren't convinced.

Jean Settino said she's been paying taxes on her home for 52 years and resented the fact that a business would get a tax break.

"If you're a business, you should be paying your taxes," she said. "And low-income housing brings crime. Oh, yes, it does."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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