Despite strong community opposition, the Baltimore County Planning Board voted to let the Charlestown retirement community in Catonsville change the location of a planned $6 million wing to its existing medical building without having to repeat the development-review process.
By a vote of 9 to 5 Thursday, and after much debate, the board granted Charlestown the waiver.
Charlestown, which opened in 1983, is located on a 110-acre campus at Wilkins Avenue and Maiden Choice Lane. It is the largest full-service retirement community in the country.
Last year, the County Review Group, the former development-review panel, approved Charlestown's plans to build the new wing. The original plans would have placed the wing adjacent to property owned by the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order of nuns that operates a residence for poor senior citizens. The Little Sisters appealed the CRG ruling.
Charlestown development officials reviewed their plans and decided to move the wing. The altered plan put the wing along Maiden Choice Lane.
The Little Sisters then dropped their CRG appeal. But the move angered nearby neighborhood associations, who said the wing would increase traffic congestion and change the character of Maiden Choice Lane.
With the board's decision, Charlestown and the neighboring community are to resolve their differences through the county Office of Planning and Zoning. Had the board rejected the waiver request, Charlestown would have had at least a 30-day delay before getting the change approved.
The planning office recommended the waiver and said the move was not a material change in the development plans. The new wing will be 50 feet from the street; existing buildings are 150 feet from the roadway.
William J. Bauman, a board member from the 1st Councilmanic District, said he opposed the waiver because Charlestown officials failed to try to reach a compromise with the community.
John C. Erickson, Charlestown's founder, said the main entrancgate will be moved back another 100 feet from Maiden Choice Lane in the hope of easing any traffic congestion.
Mr. Erickson told the board the new wing will add 160 new bedto the medical facility.
The additional beds were necessary because the retiremencommunity will add 1,000 new residents by the end of next year, Mr. Erickson said.
The medical building houses 1,600 residents.