Bill to exempt housing for elderly from building limits proposed


Six months ago, a Howard County Council bill allowing developers to exceed county limits on residential construction would have been vigorously opposed, no matter how worthy the purpose.

But at a council hearing tonight, a proposal to exempt from the county's building limits construction of housing for such special populations as the elderly is expected draw scant, if any, attention from slow-growth advocates.

Their champions -- Democrat Susan Gray and Republican John W. Taylor -- were soundly defeated in the last election, and a successor has not yet emerged.

In any case, it would be difficult to oppose the bill, Mr. Taylor says, "because who can be against senior citizens."

If approved, the exemption would allow developers of multifamily housing projects that receive public funding and are not expected to house children to build immediately -- rather than wait for approval under the county's adequate facilities law. That law imposes a five-year moratorium on new housing construction in areas where elementary schools are overcrowded.

The proposed exemption lists "housing for the elderly" as the only example of the kind of housing that would not house children. Construction of the special housing projects would not be counted as part of the rolling average of 2,500 housing units allowed each year by the adequate public facilities law.

The housing bill is among 21 pieces of legislation on tonight's agenda, including a resolution condemning anti-Semitic acts.

Councilwoman Mary C. Lorsung, 4th District Democrat, drafted the resolution in response to an act of vandalism early last month when seven large red swastikas were painted on the windows and outside walls of a Harper's Choice photography store owned by two Russian Jewish immigrants.

"In addition to the terrible thing that happened, this incident was quite startling in that this kind of thing has never happened in Harper's Choice village ever before," Ms. Lorsung said. "I felt we needed to respond as quickly and firmly as possible to say this kind of behavior will not be accepted in our community. I felt public officials needed to say that in a public way."

Accordingly, Ms. Lorsung invited County Executive Charles I. Ecker and the other four council members to join her in sponsoring the resolution. All did.

Ms. Lorsung said she sponsored the resolution to commend Harper's Choice leaders for their swift response in condemning the incident and to give community residents another forum in which to speak out against hate crimes.

"There are implications for all of us countywide," Ms. Lorsung said. The resolution "extends to the citizens of Howard County an opportunity to say we will do whatever we can in whatever way we can to work on an ongoing basis for brotherhood and inclusion."

Among the other items being considered tonight are a bill calling for Howard and Anne Arundel counties jointly to maintain Tipton Airfield as a public airport and another bill that would grant the Salvation Army a special zoning exception to open a nonprofit store.

The Salvation Army bill is the first request for a zoning exception to come under rules changed by the voters in the last election.

The new rules call for such requests to come before the council for legislative action subject to the county executive's veto and a voter referendum. The old rules called for such requests to come before the council sitting as the zoning board as administrative acts subject to judicial review.

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