Officials for the College Manor retirement community and the Lutherville Community Association are reportedly negotiating an agreement that would allow the nursing home to build an 80-bed expansion while still providing protections from future development for the surrounding neighborhoods.
Third District County Councilman Todd Huff, who represents Lutherville, said he has been working with both sides on the issue, which stems from a zoning request made by College Manor in the county's ongoing Comprehensive Zoning Map Process.
"It's just a matter of establishing some longevity on the covenants itself," Huff said last week. "I hope to have it all worked out within the next week."
According to College Manor Director of Nursing Bunny Renaud, the most recent proposal sent to Lutherville association attorneys proposes to reduce the amount of land that would have its zoning changed from DR-2, a zone allowing two units per acre, to DR-16 — a designation that allows for 16 units per acre.
In its initial CZMP request, College Manor asked for all 11.56 acres of its campus to be hanged from DR-2 to DR-16, but the Planning Board recommended that just four acres be rezoned, and the community is negotiating for even less.
Renaud said the latest proposal includes less than four acres, though she would not say the exact amount of land.
Laurie Hooper, president of the Lutherville Community Association, said the length of the covenant, which would allow College Manor to build its addition but prevent future construction for an agreed-upon time frame, depends on how much land would be rezoned.
Hooper said community would go along with a minimum of a 20-year covenant, which College Manor proposed in its most recent offer, if just two acres are developed, but would seek at least 30 years if four acres of land were rezoned.
Under current plans, College Manor is seeking to build an addition to house 80 people — the same amount they presently house in the original building, which would be converted into 12 apartments.
"We're not really adding to the traffic," she said. "We're not making any new curb cuts on the property, and we're not getting any closer to our neighbors."
Renaud said that past plans had been larger, but with each proposal, the scale of the addition has gotten smaller.
"We can't go any smaller than that and be able to maintain ourselves in the marketplace, but we're going to do our best with whatever the outcome is to improve the property, no matter what," she said.
Hooper said community would go along with a minimum of a 20-year covenant if just two acres are developed, but would seek at least 30 years if four acres of land were rezoned.
Hooper said there's "no animus" against College Manor from the community association, and they "don't want to interfere with their ability to continue to prosper as a business."
"College Manor is a valuable member of the community," he said. "This is about finding a way to meet their reasonable needs for expansion, and our needs to protect the long-term needs of the historic neighborhood."
Part of the most recent College Manor proposal includes a stipulation that roadside signs throughout the neighborhood that read "No High Density Development — stopcollegemanor.com" be removed.
Should the covenant not work out, College Manor's fate will be in the hands of Huff, who will make decisions on the CZMP requests in the 3rd District. Huff has 71 requests to consider throughout the district, and said, "I'm dealing with each one individually."
One way Huff might deal with it is through Bill 48-12, which was introduced July 2 and would allow for additional development at senior housing facilities in a DR zone under a set of certain stipulations.
Those stipulations — that the senior housing facility be at least 11 acres in size, be located in a county historic district, and contain an existing structure at least 50 years old — all apply to College Manor. The bill would allow development if it is "designed to be compatible with and make use of the existing historic structure," is connected to the existing building and is no taller than the existing building.
The bill, which is scheduled to be discussed at a council work session on July 31, also requires at least five acres of open space on the property, and prohibits more than 80 assisted living units and 12 dwelling units for seniors.
Hooper said he sees the legislative approach as a "very bad idea" because new legislation could be passed at a later date that supersedes it.
All sides caution that any resolution — be it a covenant or legislation — would just be one step in the process. Even if a covenant is agreed upon, Hooper said the 15-member LCA board would need to approve it.
Additionally, due to College Manor's location within Historic Lutherville, any work would need to be approved by both the neighborhood association and the county's Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The County Council is scheduled to vote on the final CZMP package on Tuesday, Aug. 28.