The Howard County Zoning Board got its first look Thursday at an Erickson Living retirement community proposed for Clarksville.
Dozens of residents attended the preliminaryzoning board meeting to hear about the plans. The meeting's purpose was to allow the board and the community to see early plans for the project and for board members to ask questions, but the board made no formal decisions or recommendations during the meeting.
The development, which would be located on a 63-acre property on Sheppard Lane near Clarksville Pike, will include 1,200 independent living units and 240 assisted living units. As part of the project's development, the property would need to be rezoned by the county to be a "community enhancement floating" district, or CEF, meaning that it would offer positive amenities to the surrounding area.
Erickson Living is a Catonsville-based senior care provider, with three other locations in Maryland, as well as facilities in 10 other states.
Erickson is the second larger-scale retirement community recently proposed for the county. Brightview Senior Living had a preliminary hearing with the zoning board for a 170-unit facility in July. Representatives from both Erickson and Brightview noted during their hearings the need for additional senior housing given the growing elderly population in the county.
Between 2010 and 2035, county's population over 50 years of age is expected to grow by over 60 percent from 87,237 to 140,175, more than double that of the growth rate for the total population, according to county data.
At Erickson's Catonsville 110-acre location, entrance deposit fees for apartments begin at $84,000 for a studio apartment and increase up to $612,000 for a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment with a sunroom and den. Monthly service package fees range from $1,695 to $2,825 per month.
Scott Sawicki, senior director of corporate affairs at Erickson Living, said many residents use money from the sale of their previous home to pay for the entrance deposit.
Amenities provided through the monthly service package include a meal plan, security, transportation, utilities and maintenance and access to leisure and medical services.
Plans for the retirement community also include approximately $4.5 million in road improvements, including traffic enhancements to the surrounding area along Route 108, such as constructing a public access road and the widening and realignment of portions of Sheppard Lane. These improvements are meant to satisfy the property's new CEF zoning designation.
The Department of Transportation has also recommended construction of a public transit stop along Route 108, and the Department of Planning and Zoning recommended additional improvements, saying that any improvements on the road address possible congestion caused by the community near River Hill High School, which is located near the proposed site.
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Possible traffic congestion has been a common concern of residents near the proposed site, particularly on Clarksville Pike, according to Sawicki. Representatives from Erickson have held nearly 30 meetings with community members about the project in the past several months to hear concerns, Sawicki said, including a community meeting in June that had approximately 200 attendees.
Living with mom or dad again — or the in-laws — after years of independence isn't for everyone, but such living arrangements are becoming more common as the U.S. population ages and Americans live longer. There appear to be no studies showing how frequently it occurs, but many retirement communities in Maryland and elsewhere are seeing older children move into the same communities as their parents, sometimes even the same units.
Traffic conditions and possible improvements were also of concern to board members, who questioned how significantly the road work would improve traffic in the area.
Multiple residents at Thursday's meeting spoke out with concerns about the size, scope and location of the project. Resident John Sutherland spoke out against the development's location, due to the fact that it backs up against agricultural preservation land.
Sutherland called the size of the project a small "city" and said he didn't believe the retirement community would actually offer significant enhancements to the surrounding area.
River Hill resident Matt Brenner said the gated-off nature of the community was unwelcoming to the nearby neighborhood, and worried that the large number of residents moving to the area could cause congestion.