Builder plans senior-citizen apartments If approved, 92-unit project would be near Cranberry Mall


WESTMINSTER -- A Reisterstown developer has plans to build 92 senior citizen apartments on Cranberry Road, just north of Cranberry Mall.

The nine-building complex would be on 6.8 acres and would be geared to people 55 and older with "moderate" incomes, said John J. Schuster Jr. of Schuster Enterprises Inc.

"I believe it can be developed with a real nice country sort of appeal to it," he told the county Board of Zoning Appeals on Thursday.

The complex would not have medical or meal services, but would have an emergency call system to the resident manager, he said. "What's proposed here is independent living," Schuster said.

The location is good for senior citizens because it is close to shopping centers, churches and health-care facilities, said James H. Dulany, a Westminster real estate appraiser who testified for Schuster.

The board must give Schuster permission to build the apartments because the land is zoned for single-family homes on quarter-acre lots.

The board will issue a written decision on the proposal "within a reasonable time," Chairman John Totura said.

Rent for about half the units probably would start at $420, Schuster said. Tenants in other units would pay more, but he said he does not know how much. Tenants would pay the utility bills also.

About half the tenants probably would have incomes under $21,000, he said.

Each unit would be about 700 square feet and would have one bedroom and a patio or balcony. None of the buildings would have stairs, Schuster said.

Six buildings would have 12 units, two would have eight units and one would have four units, he said. A community building with offices for employees and a room where tenants could gather for activities also would be built, he said.

The project probably would be done in two phases, with 52 units built in the first phase, Schuster said. A preliminary marketing study showed that number of units could be rented without delay, he said.

The property is owned by the estate of Mildred Bitzel, said her son, Gerald Bitzel of Westminster.

The property has been in his family since 1915, he said, adding that he and his brothers are happy with Schuster's proposal and are willing to sell the land to him.

"We think our parents would be pleased with it, and we hope it would be a tribute to them," he said.

Schuster said he sent letters to area homeowners inviting them to a meeting April 22 at the site to discuss the project. One neighbor attended, and he did not oppose the plan, Schuster said.

No one attended the hearing Thursday to oppose the project.

Board member and former county commissioner John L.

Armacost said he was concerned that traffic from the apartments would create congestion.

But Wes Guckert, president of The Traffic Group Inc. in Towson, said studies showed most of the tenants would not make many trips to and from the complex during rush hours, and that the project would not add to traffic congestion in the area.

The developer said he has built two senior apartment complexes -- in Smyrna, Del., and Maugansville, Washington County.

He said he still must secure financing for the complex, which would be owned by a group of investors called Cranberry Elderly Limited Partnership. Each unit would cost $50,000 to $52,000 to build, he said.

The project does not have a name yet, Schuster said.

If the Board of Zoning Appeals approves the project, the county Planning Commission then would review the plans. If all goes well, Schuster said he would like to begin work this fall.

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