Market forces likely to drive continuing care retirement community revision [Aegis Editorial]

Strange though it may seem to say out loud, just about everyone in Harford County is the beneficiary of a residential developer.

Be it Howard Park, one of the county's oldest neighborhoods, or Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace, one of its newest, the places where most houses are – and where most people live – are there because of residential land developers.

In Harford County, as is the case in many suburban communities, the dynamic is such that people have been attracted because of the relative seclusion, which then attracts another wave of potential buyers, which results in more development, making the place less secluded and generally irritating the people who came for the initial level of seclusion.

Thus, the political dynamic in the county has become such that even newcomers living in new communities generally want to see development curtailed.

At some point, as yet not clearly defined, it becomes harder to sell seclusion because too many people are already living in supposedly secluded communities.

Enter the 700-unit retirement community proposed by Presbyterian Home of Maryland for a 152.57-acre tract on the eastern side of the Bel Air area. It is virtually the same proposal that was run out of Aberdeen a few years back, for a variety of reasons. In Bel Air, it is opposed because of fears that it will add to the traffic problems in the busy communities around the intersection of Routes 22 and 543 (Fountain Green Road).

Actually, the area already is a traffic mess, owing to the dozens of supposedly secluded communities that already feed traffic into the intersection. Another 700 units won't help the situation, but as those units are to be marketed to people of retirement age, the impact on rush hours probably would be somewhat mitigated.

Still, the people complaining have a legitimate point, and it appears the developers may have heard the concerns of the opposition, as the project is being halted so it can be given an overhaul.

The degree to which the opposition has been heard won't be known until a new plan is unveiled, but there's good reason for the developers to be sensitive to the concerns of the opposition, because that opposition is the likely customer base.

In the past, when developments have been built, the market was people living outside the community seeking that seclusion. For a retirement community, the market is likely to be people already living nearby who are looking to downsize their living spaces, but want to remain in the area where they settled.

The retirement community as proposed has a lot to recommend it, but the 700-unit size is certainly daunting for those living in an already busy area.

It'll be worth keeping an eye on what the revised plan looks like, but it may well be something that's perfectly palatable, in more ways than one, to the people who live near where the development is proposed, if for no other reason than market forces.

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