Brightview facility opposed

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Plans for an assisted-living facility along a scenic stretch of General’s Highway in Crownsville appear dead after three key members of the Anne Arundel County Council indicated they would oppose granting sewer access to the site.

On Monday night, the council first narrowly opposed a change to a “housekeeping” zoning bill that would have blocked the 160-unit assisted-living center on seven acres, but the victory for Shelter Development of Baltimore was short-lived.

Though acknowledging the need for more housing for the county’s aging population, three of the lawmakers who voted against Democratic Councilman Josh Cohen’s amendment – Republicans Ronald C. Dillon Jr. and Edward R. Reilly and Democrat Daryl D. Jones – said they will block the required sewer hookups.

Neighbors have vociferously argued the project would overwhelm the two-lane General’s Highway and spawn further development along the forested corridor between Annapolis and Crownsville. More than 50 people raised their hands in opposition to the project at the council meeting.

County Executive John R. Leopold’s administration had proposed the zoning change that would allow Shelter to build – by reducing the minimum property size for assisted-living facilities from 10 to five acres. Yesterday, he echoed the concerns of the trio of councilmen, saying his administration would “strongly oppose” any efforts to grant sewage access.

Without it, the plan for a Brightview Assisted Living Facility appears doomed. Shelter Development could seek sewer approval through the administrative hearing process but would face an uphill battle, given Leopold’s stance.

“The book isn’t closed for good,” Cohen, who represents the Annapolis Neck, said yesterday. “But it’s very unlikely that project will move forward.”

The zoning bill, which is on course for passage by next month, was just one of several high-profile bills discussed – and not voted on – during the council’s 5-hour, 17-minute hearing that extended into early yesterday morning. They included:

– A bill sponsored by Democratic Councilman Jamie Benoit to offer a hiring preference to veterans who served during a time of war or during peacetime but deployed in support of a specific military operation.

– A bill sponsored by Reilly to relieve Albert Lord, chairman of the student-loan magnet Sallie Mae, of the obligation to build a mile-long access road as part of his plan to build a private 18-hole golf course in Harwood.

– Leopold’s proposed SMART fund to impose a fee on most new development to restore waterways damaged by runoff.

The council will take up those bills again on Nov. 19.

Benoit’s bill would require personnel officer Andrea Fulton to adopt a preference policy for applicants that would be graded on points or quantitative factors. The councilman said it would effectively serve as a tiebreaker between two equally qualified candidates.

The Leopold administration wants to change the bill to grant the preference to all veterans who honorably served, but apply it only to public safety jobs, such as police officers, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies, because those positions require applicants to take a standardized test. In response to criticism that the amendment would close county employment opportunities to most disabled veterans, Fulton testified that the revised preference would apply to communications positions.

Noting that 90 public-safety communications jobs exist in the county, Benoit said that doesn’t provide enough employment opportunities to disabled veterans. There are about 4,100 county employees.

“Two percent of the jobs isn’t doing it for me,” Benoit said.

Kenneth McCall Sr., chairman of the Anne Arundel County Veterans Affairs Commission, said that panel has not taken a position on Benoit’s bill or Leopold’s amendment, pointing to flaws in both.

Regarding the SMART fund, Dillon, Benoit and Cohen asked for a delay on a vote on that bill so they can revise a far-reaching amendment to Leopold’s proposal that would create a new fund that would be fed by fees on most future development to combat storm-water runoff.

The three want most property owners to pay it to generate more than the $5.3 million that the SMART fund is estimated to raise annually.

County officials estimate that $1.3 billion is needed to wipe out a backlog of restoration projects for waterways and watersheds along Anne Arundel’s 530 miles of shoreline.

The council voted to grant Virginia-based Cavalier Telephone Corp. the county’s fourth cable license. Under the seven-year agreement, Cavalier will offer cable, phone and Internet services in Brooklyn Park, Linthicum, Glen Burnie, Maryland City and Russett.

The communities of Glen Burnie, Maryland City and Russett will have access to all four providers: Cavalier, Verizon Communications, Comcast Corp. and Millennium Digital Media Services.

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