The Presbyterian Home senior housing plan for Fountain Green has its merits, but the degree to which the public is expected to grant tax relief is a major question that needs to be addressed.
Presbyterian Home of Maryland is a not-for-profit corporation that's proposing a continuing care retirement community consisting of as many as 700 living units and, possibly, as many as another 160 single family houses for a little more than 150 acres off of Route 543 near the busy Route 22 intersection.
Presbyterian Home says it's essentially the same plan that had been proposed in Aberdeen two years ago, but ended up falling apart over the issue of tax breaks.
The project has a lot of merit, but like any project, the question will be at what cost to the community and its taxpayers. Continuing care communities, which offer a continuum of support for people in what are euphemistically referred to as their golden years, are very much in demand. They have sprung up in many places, and some, like those at Willow Valley in Pennsylvania, are quite large and well-known.
Longer life expectancies, coupled with the aging of the post-World War II Baby Boom generation, mean the need for housing situations that change as the needs of the residents change is great, and likely to increase in years to come. Harford County would do well to have more such housing opportunities, so people whose roots are in the community can comfortably stay.
What prevented the Presbyterian Home plan from coming to fruition in Aberdeen wasn't the need for such an operation, but the financing and its strong dependence on public backing, even as certain parts of the project were free market driven.
The tax breaks sought in the Aberdeen incarnation of the project would have applied not only to living areas, but also to areas that would have had for profit ventures – ranging from shops to professional arts operations - as tenants. More importantly, the project, while catering to elderly people living on fixed incomes, was not billed as having an alms house component. Rather, it was to be for people who would sell their homes and commit to pay fairly substantial rent to be enrolled in the facility. It's not an unusual arrangement, and the expenses associated with caring for people are such that it isn't necessarily a guaranteed money maker. But it would hardly be a charity.
It remains to be seen to what degree Presbyterian Home will seek tax breaks for the operation it's seeking to build at Fountain Green. Certainly, but if the expectation is to grant tax breaks on the full property, then the county should be as skeptical as Aberdeen was when the plan was first proposed.