Calvert Considers Definitions for Group Homes

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Calvert Considers Definitions for Group Homes

Prince Frederick, MD - 2/5/2013

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By Marty Madden

Commissioners' President Pat Nutter
Commissioners' President Pat Nutter

What could be a very long process to redefine Calvert County’s legal definitions for a group home, assisted living facility and similar uses has begun. The Calvert County Commissioners conducted a work session Tuesday, Feb. 5 with the Department of Community Planning and Building on a proposed text amendment on definitions of several types of living facilities.

According to a memo from Deputy Director of Community Planning and Building Mary Beth Cook, the revisions are being done “in response to concerns about appropriate levels of commercial uses in residential districts.” The amendments, Cook stated, “propose to redefine group home and assisted living facility to reflect state definitions as provided in the Annotated Code of Maryland.”

Since the code also includes definitions of care homes, shelters and transitional housing, those items are also being included in the department’s text amendment revision.

Cook said the issue has been discussed with the staff of the county government’s Department of Community Resources.

What was proposed during the work session was to allow a care home up to four residents and define a group home as one with four to eight residents needing a specialized living arrangement due to a development disability.

New conditions for a group home, as proposed, would require the owner and/or operator to live on-site, obtainment of an occupancy permit and operation in accordance with all applicable state and federal requirements. Staff’s proposal stated an assisted living facility is proposed to provide housing for not more than eight residents who need help in performing activities of daily living. There would be no limits placed on the number of residents in a shelter.

Staff’s proposal noted that “transitional housing” is “one family living in a residence until they can get back on their feet.” There would be no limits on the number of residents.

Regarding the housed facilities requiring licensing, Department of Community Resources Director Maureen Hoffman indicated the state handles the licensing and currently does not notify county residents when a license has been issued.

Commissioner Gerald W. “Jerry” Clark [R] stated that if the operation, such as an assisted living facility, is for-profit, “it’s a business and requires a business license.”

Commissioners’ President Pat Nutter [R] observed problems materialize with the “dropping” of a commercial operation in the middle of a neighborhood. “How do we draw these lines?” Nutter asked.

Department of Community Planning and Building Director Charles Johnston indicated a solution would be to draft regulations that “shouldn’t be subject to administrative interpretation.”

That suggestion appeared to raise the hackles of Commissioner Susan Shaw [R] who was critical of the text amendment proposals’ rigidness. “You have not addressed the problem,” Shaw told Johnston. “We are creating problems.”

Shaw stated there were many houses that would be scrutinized as “group homes” where the residents are not developmentally disabled. Shaw later added she was concerned about “stigmatizing” those residents. “We took a round peg and put it in a square hole,” said Shaw.

Nutter suggested that staff “study further” the entire issue. “Obviously we have a problem but we don’t want to create more,” said Nutter.

Shaw made the motion to direct staff to do further work on the amendment. Clark agreed to second the motion provided the Calvert County Planning Commission is also involved in the discussion.

“What’s being presented to the planning commission makes no sense,” said Shaw.

Clark acknowledged that “we are starting over. I‘m trying to get more minds wrapped around this.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the motion.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com



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