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Howard County hearing examiner postpones Bethany Glen hearings

The proposed Bethany Glen development would include 238 age-restricted housing units in Ellicott City.
The proposed Bethany Glen development would include 238 age-restricted housing units in Ellicott City. (Courtesy Elm Street Development)

Without hearing testimony from either side, Howard County Hearing Examiner Michele LeFaivre ended Monday night’s hearing on the proposed Bethany Glen development and canceled Wednesday’s hearing, announcing that she wanted the developer to submit new, more detailed site plans.

Elm Street Development has proposed to build 238 age-restricted senior residences at Bethany Glen near Route 99 in Ellicott City. The idea has received harsh backlash from local residents who have expressed concerns about the area’s increasing population density.

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The project first went before the county’s hearing examiner last week when Elm Street Vice President Jason Van Kirk and consultant Hank Alinger testified on behalf of the proposal.

LeFaivre said Monday that as she listened to Alinger discuss greater details of the project at that hearing, including possible buffers and entrance points, she became increasingly concerned about being able to adequately see all of these ideas in the proposed site plans, due to their small scale. She asked the developer to submit new plans in advance of the next hearing for her review.

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The long controversial proposal for an age restricted housing development called "Bethany Glen" had its debut before the Howard County Hearing Examiner on Thursday, opening up what is set to be a lengthy and contentious hearing process.

Holding up her ruler, LeFaivre said she had struggled to measure the project’s details at the current 1-to-100 scale provided by Elm Street, which showed a large land area on paper, but with little detail. She requested that Elm Street submit plans showing the project on a 1-to-50 scale.

“I need to be able to see certain things upfront, because there are a lot of onsite environmental issues,” she said. “I want to understand the onsite, proposed project. I want everything to be fleshed out in this hearing.”

Elm Street’s attorney, Bill Erskine, said that their team was prepared to provide LeFaivre with the revised plans, and could do so as early as late January.

Van Kirk said he was not concerned by the decision to postpone the hearing, and that providing the plans in more detailed scale was “not a problem.”

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Opponents to the development, including area residents Lisa Soto and Mike Thompson, said they were pleased by LeFaivre’s decision. Thompson, who called the initial plans “generic” and Van Kirk and Alinger’s testimony “vague,” said that more detailed plans would allow residents to better understand the proposal and formulate more informed cross examination questions for the developers.

Without further dates confirmed for upcoming hearings, it could be months before Bethany Glen goes back before the hearing examiner. LeFaivre said she was looking at possible dates in late February or early March, and that she would announce the dates in January.

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