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Impact of expanded group home feared


Jan and Michael Power fear the peace and serenity they find behind their secluded home in Davidsonville will be shattered when the owner of a group home next door begins construction to triple the size of the facility.

The back yard, with its white granite fountain, is "our retreat from the world," said Mrs. Power, 45, of Whispering Oaks Lane. "Now, it'll be ruined."

The controversy over the facility has led County Councilman John J. Klocko III to draft legislation to tighten controls on group homes.

The bill, which is to be introduced at tonight's council meeting in the Arundel Center, would not affect the Davidsonville project because its permits already have been issued. The proposal attempts to defuse future conflicts, the Crofton Republican said.

Mr. Klocko said he fashioned his bill after a meeting with a group of Davidsonville residents who contend that the 6,110-square-foot addition to the group home at Birdsville Road and Whispering Oaks Lane is inconsistent with the single-family homes in the neighborhood.

The three-bedroom rancher is owned by Richard and Helen Ainsworth of Kris-Leigh Assisted Living Inc. of Reisterstown.

It is one of 27 assisted-living facilities in Anne Arundel County, said Dr. Carol Baker, director of the county Department of Aging.

The expansion will add 17 bedrooms and 18 bathrooms to house a total of 20 people.

"It's going to change the nature of the community -- which is rural and residential -- by adding a large, commercial institution that looks like a warehouse, not a home," Mrs. Power said. "The basic issue is that it's got to look like a home."

Gail Enright, 55, secretary of the Davidsonville Area Civic Association, said the addition is "a matter of flouting custom."

"Churches can look like churches," she said. "Schools can look ++ like schools. Homes must look like homes."

Mr. Klocko agreed. "Unless you're the Brady Bunch times two, it doesn't make sense," he said. "Show me a single-family home with a dormitory wing. That's not the way a home is built."

One provision of the bill would reduce the percentage of lot space a group home could occupy from 60 percent to 40 percent.

Mr. Klocko said the current percentage is too high compared with that for typical single-family homes.

"That's an excessive amount of coverage, considering that a home in the neighborhood can only cover 25 percent of its lot," he said. "That's a disproportionate amount of space."

Frank Ward, director of the Permit Application Center, said 1986 legislation granted group homes the larger figure because they were thought to serve a public good, much like private schools and charities.

The proposal also would repeal a clause in county zoning laws that permits group home owners to double the number of occupants if they purchase an adjacent lot of the same size.

For example, the owner of a 20-resident group home can add another 20 occupants by building an addition on a neighboring lot of identical size.

"I think that's an anomaly," Mr. Klocko said. "I don't think that should be the intent of the law."

The Ainsworths did not returned calls for comment.

And while Davidsonville residents say they are angered by the expansion, they insist they have no problem with the senior citizens.

"The folks themselves and the resident manager have been kind," Mrs. Power said. "We have tried to be good neighbors, and we don't object to them being here."

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