It wasn't until Oct. 7, Mildred Poucky says, that she found out the Anne Arundel County Housing Authority wanted to cut in half her already cramped living room at Pinewood Gardens Apartments and enlarge the bedroom, where she has only a single bed.
She's angry. "Most people who live here bought their furniture to fit the living room," Ms. Poucky said before a residents' meeting Wednesday. "Now what do they do, get rid of half of it?"
Ms. Poucky was one of dozens of residents of the public housing complex for senior citizens who turned out to complain about the changes the authority already has started in some of their efficiency apartments off Mountain Road.
"They took my living room away," complained Betty Layden, whlives in one of the apartments where the work began this week. "Now I'll have to sell my dining room set because I won't have room for it or my hutch."
Larry Loyd, executive director of the housing authority, said the changes are part of a plan to upgrade the kitchens in the efficiency apartments.
Now, the apartments have a small, narrow kitchen near the door and a living room that is 20 feet long and 10 feet wide. Most residents have partitioned one end of that space to hide their beds, and use the rest of the room for couches, chairs, televisions and dining sets.
With the changes, the kitchen wall is removed and replaced with one that cuts the living room in half to create a living room and kitchen area and a bedroom.
"We wanted to make the unit more functional and better looking," Mr. Loyd said. "Right now, it's a problem opening the oven and seeing into it."
"Not with mine," many residents rumbled after they heard that explanation at the meeting.
In fact, Ms. Poucky got signatures from 75 residents of the 95 apartments on a petition protesting the changes. "The main room we need is the living room. We spend most of our time there," said Louise Leto, another resident.
Mrs. Poucky said her main problem with the plan was that residents weren't notified until last week. "The lease states that we are to get written notice," she said.
But Mr. Loyd said the "information has been available [since last spring] and I really don't know what else to say."
He said that a housing authority survey in early 1992 found that "kitchens, appliances, and cabinets were on top of the list" of items residents wanted improved. "But we couldn't make those changes unless we made the kitchen more functional by taking the wall out," he added.
When residents continued to complain that they weren't told of the changes until last week, Mr. Loyd noted that the authority is required to give only 48 hours notice before workers enter an apartment. "We gave four to five days notice and thought it would be more personal over the phone than in writing," he said.
He agreed, however, to ask for volunteers to help him draft options for redesigning the apartments.
"We just didn't want 100 different configurations," Mr. Loyd said. "Two or three options that make sense -- that we could accommodate."
"We made the decisions, we think they're valid, and we will go ahead with them," Mr. Loyd said. "We have their best interests in mind."