The Anne Arundel County Council voted unanimously last night to tighten controls on owners of group homes.
About 30 people -- most of whom supported the bill -- attended the council meeting. Half of the audience was from Davidsonville, where neighbors are protesting the approval of a 6,110-square-foot expansion that would triple the size of a group home at Birdsville Road and Whispering Oaks Lane.
The rest of the audience, from Severna Park, came to oppose the planned construction of a so-called motel-looking group home on Arundel Beach Road.
While many in the audience applauded the vote on controls, some Davidsonville residents were dismayed that the council did not stop the expansion of the Birdsville Road group home.
"It's disappointing that the county doesn't have much control at all," said David Kienast, 54, of Birdsville Road, who compared the expansion to an "Army barracks."
"It's a shame that the state can come in and dictate in a way that isn't discriminatory, but is," he said.
The bill's sponsor, Councilman John J. Klocko III, called the measure "a positive step forward."
One provision of the bill limits the number of occupants in an assisted-living facility, or group home, to 15.
The bill also eliminates a clause in the county zoning code that allows owners of group homes to double the number of occupants if the owners buy an adjacent lot of the same size.
For instance, the proposal would prohibit the owner of a 15-member group home from adding another 15 residents in an addition on a neighboring lot of identical size.
The bill also reduces the percentage of lot space a group home could occupy from 60 percent to the percentage dictated by the type of district in which the facility is located.
Thus, a group home in a residential/agricultural neighborhood can only occupy the same percentage of lot as the rest of the homes -- in this case, 25 percent.
Mr. Klocko introduced the legislation after meeting with a group Davidsonville residents who were opposed to the Birdsville Road group home expansion, which will add 17 bedrooms and 18 bathrooms to the three-bedroom rancher owned by Richard and Helen Ainsworth of Kris-Leigh Assisted Living Inc. of Reisterstown.
The neighbors have argued that the addition, which already has been approved, will be out of character in a neighborhood of single-family homes.