Work on a proposed nursing home at the western edge of Turf Valley could begin this year after Planning Board approval for the Lorien Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facility.
The facility, which would feature 62 nursing home beds and an additional 100 assisted living beds, is to be on 6 acres on the east side of Marriottsville Road just south of Interstate 70.
"It's an exciting first step in the creation of Lorien at Turf Valley," said Gina Ellrich, a spokeswoman for Mangione Family Enterprises, the developer. "Our goal is to enhance the community and provide needed services for Howard County's aging population."
Lorien is the first piece of a development at the 800-acre hotel and conference center in western Ellicott City that is proposed to include 1,618 condominiums, townhouses and single-family homes plus commercial development, she said.
At the Planning Board meeting Thursday, a half-dozen residents voiced concern about the route that traffic would take to reach the nursing home.
"The Lorien facility itself is welcome," said Marc Norman, a member of a citizens' group called Responsible Growth In Our Neighborhood. "Many people would love to have the facility in the community for their family members. The problem is the access."
Norman and others warned that the planned access, which involves turning into Turf Valley from Marriottsville Road and then making a U-turn on Resort Road, which will be extended east to cut through the property.
"You're going to have accidents and traffic-related issues, because of this U-turn configuration," said Norman, who lives in Turf Valley. "Who in their right mind designs a project with a primary access as a U-turn? There is a way that they could direct traffic so they would not create this."
They also worried that to avoid having to make the U-turn, drivers might choose to enter the property from U.S. 40 and drive through the old residential neighborhood on Turf Valley Road, adding to traffic counts there.
Norman suggested there is an alternative that involves building a bridge over the Little Patuxent River, adjacent to an existing golf-cart path bridge.
"We're all concerned about the environment," he said. "But when it comes down to a trade-off between traffic safety and environmental concerns, traffic safety wins out."
Access from other directions has been restricted by the State Highway Administration and environmental factors, county officials have said. And this type of development produces one of the lowest number of cars at peak hours than any other usage, they said.
Angela Beltram, a citizen activist who is a former County Council and Planning Board member, said she told the board that if a proposal is not safe for residents, then board members should say, "No."
"They can be more independent," she said. "You just say, 'No,' and let them come back with a better plan."
Instead, with Planning Board approval, "They'll have ambulances making U-turns," she said.
Those concerned about the access say they do not think that the county has done a safety analysis.
Norman and others are considering an appeal. They have 30 days after the Planning Board signs its decision to appeal to the Board of Appeals.
"This was a decision of traffic safety, not restricting development," Norman said. "It's really difficult to understand the value that the Planning Board brings to the development process when they've rubber-stamped every application by Turf Valley for the past 20 years."