Davidsonville residents fear impact of expanded group home


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 home.

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, will not affect the Davidsonville project because permits already have been issued, but it will attempt to defuse future conflicts, said the Crofton Republican.

Mr. Klocko said he fashioned his bill after 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 more bedrooms and 18 more 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," said Mrs. Power. "The basic issue is that it's got to look like a home."

Gail Enright, 55, secretary of the Davidsonville Area Civic Association, complained that the additions 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 can occupy from 60 percent to 40 percent. Mr. Klocko said the percentage is too high in comparison to 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 repeated 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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