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Zoning examiner approves personal care boarding home use for Vale Road property in Bel Air

The Harford hearing examiner has approved a special excepton to convert the Harloe house on Vale Road in Bel Air into an assisted living facility.
The Harford hearing examiner has approved a special excepton to convert the Harloe house on Vale Road in Bel Air into an assisted living facility. (AEGIS FILE / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

A Harford County zoning hearing examiner has approved a request to convert a historic house on Vale Road north of Bel Air to a personal care boarding home for up to 14 residents.

In an opinion released Tuesday, Hearing Examiner Robert Kahoe concluded the request for the Heritage Hill property would not have any adverse impact on the surrounding, predominantly residential neighborhood.

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Diana Harloe, the owner of the 3.24-acre property, applied for a required special zoning exception on behalf of Joyce and David Apperson, who have contracted to purchase the property from Harloe and will operate the personal care boarding home. The property, which has been on the market for several years, is in the 300 block of Vale Road and has R2, medium density residential zoning.

The Appersons testified at a Nov. 30 hearing on the request before Kahoe that Joyce Apperson's business, Caring Connections Inc., has been providing in-home patient care services for 10 years and that she has past experience with personal care facilities, where residents typically require some help with basic daily needs, including taking any medications. Joyce Apperson said Caring Connections, which has about 25 clients, would remain in business, even as she focuses on the new business.

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A proposal to convert a historic house north of Bel Air to an assisted living facility, which would serve up to 14 residents, was endorsed by two neighbors during a zoning hearing Wednesday evening, although one of those neighbors is concerned there would not be enough people working on site to handle the proposed number of residents.

Joyce Apperson said she believes there is a need for more personal care boarding homes in Harford County. Earlier in 2016, Kahoe approved a special exception for a personal care home at a property in the 800 block of Red Pump Road, approximately a mile from the Harloe property. The Red Pump facility, which will be in a house that is due to be expanded from 1,600 to 3,500 square feet, will serve 10 residents and have four caregivers, according to information provided during a county development review in September.

The Appersons plan to live on the property and will have two employees to assist the 14 residents and will have a physician on-call, according to the hearing testimony. The employees will be on duty from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with the Appersons providing care overnight. All will be certified to dispense medication.

The house at Heritage Hill, built in the 1860s, has seven bedrooms and a five-car garage. Kahoe's opinion stipulates that in addition to limiting the number of residents to 14 and employees to two, the garage can only be used to store the Apperson's personal vehicles. Joyce Apperson said she has no plans to change anything about the property, including the house and the circular drive, except to add nine parking spaces.

Aside from occasional emergency medical vehicles, the Appersons testified they expect few visitors to the home, as most residents will live there an average of two to three years, after which they will require more skilled nursing care. The home will not take in Alzheimer's patients.

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Personal care boarding homes are regulated by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the hearing examiner noted, and the home would have to meet all department regulations before it can operate. In addition, a site plan must be reviewed and approved through the county development process, which will require an additional hearing before the Development AdvisoryCommittee, or DAC.

In addition, Kahoe said if the Appersons decide not to operate the home any more or to sell it, they can't transfer the special exception approval to new operators or owners, who would have to apply for their own special exception.

During the hearing, the Appersons' lawyer said state regulations require one caregiver on the premises for every eight residents. A couple of the Heritage Hill property's neighbors who attended the hearing said they did not object to the planned use for the property. One of them, however, questioned how two people would be able to care for 14.

A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday evening with a zoning hearing examiner regarding an application to convert the historic Heritage Hill house, north of Bel Air, into an assisted living facility that would house up to 14 people.

Kahoe wrote in his opinion that two neighboring residents testified, "both expressing their hope that the use does well, although somewhat skeptical of the applicants with only two employees to care for 14 residents. The Harford County Department of Planning and Zoning endorsed the approval, concluding the proposed use "would not adversely impact the residential character of the surrounding neighborhood."

"There is, in short, no reason to deny the application as it meets all specific and general code requirements...," Kahoe wrote, while noting the proposed use would have no more impact at the Vale Road location "than it would if located somewhere else within the R2 urban residential district."

Harloe, who attended the November hearing, said afterward she preferred the planned use of her home as a personal care facility rather than seeing it demolished to make way "for another development we don't need in Harford County."

Kahoe's decision will stand as submitted, unless a review by the Harford County Council, which also sits as the county board of appeals, is requested. The deadline to file such a request is Jan. 23.

Aegis staff member David Anderson contributed to this report.



Harford County’s “Choose Civility” campaign kicked off with a breakfast event at the Water’s Edge Events Center in Belcamp on Wednesday.
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