We have been hearing from many folks who are concerned after receiving promotional mailings like the one below from the Crystal Spring developer soliciting “priority” deposits from seniors. They want to know if this means the project and its 351 living units have been approved by the city.
DON’T BE FOOLED: THE DESTRUCTIVE DEVELOPMENT PLANS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED BY THE CITY! NOR ARE THEY CLOSE TO APPROVAL.
The developers of Crystal Spring have ramped up efforts to collect $1,000 deposits for priority choice of units at their senior community now called The Village at Providence Point. National Lutheran Communities & Services (NLCS) is blanketing the area with mailings to seniors offering free restaurant lunches to solicit deposits for units that do not exist and may never exist. Many folks think these sales pitches mean the city has approved the development plans filed on January 22, 2019 or is close to doing so.
The NLCS advertisement states that they expect approval of their plans by the end of 2019 and occupancy of their proposed development in 2023. We want to assure you that there is no way that city approval will occur in 2019. The reality is that the plans are far from being approved nearly nine months after they were filed. The city hasn’t even completed its review.
The January filings were so far off from meeting current basic environmental laws and requirements, it took Planning and Zoning (P&Z) until June 12 (nearly five months) to complete just one aspect of its legally mandated review. That review was confined exclusively to the environmental problems with the plans and resulted in five pages of single-spaced comments requiring major changes to the development proposal. Many of these changes will result in significant increases in the cost of the project while potentially eliminating some of the units for sale and downsizing other units. The changes dictated by the city will save close to 10 acres of forest from destruction and reduce polluted stormwater runoff.
Beyond major environmental shortcomings, city planners found serious flaws in the plans concerning design, Code compliance, and architecture. These issues are still under review and will require even more substantial changes.
This all means that the development plans are on indefinite hold until all such issues are resolved. The developers must submit revised plans with major changes to meet these environmental concerns as well as other changes the city dictates upon completion of their review. There is no practical way that the developers will be allowed to build their proposed community of 351-units on 35 acres as planned.
Some of the environmental deficiencies cited by the city include: destroying 30-acres of mature forest with no plans to limit such destruction or to reforest 100% of forest cleared, as required by law; failure to meet legal requirements for minimizing and properly managing polluted stormwater runoff; improper siting requirements for environmental integrity; and the failure to submit details on required forest and other conservation easements.
How can they market a development that has not been approved?
We are repeatedly asked how the developer can begin marketing and collecting payments from seniors if the planned development is nowhere near approval by the city. After receiving approval from the Department of Aging for their feasibility study, the developer could begin collecting $1,000 deposits from seniors, which is why they have been sending out advertisements.
Our appeal of the Department’s decision was dismissed even though we had submitted substantial evidence that the approval was legally deficient, not based on current plans, nor was it close to city approval. The current Secretary of Aging reversed an agreement reached by her predecessor to not approve any new feasibility study for Crystal Spring until the city gave final approval for the project. This was done after previous plans were found to be not economically feasible. Nonetheless, we continue to urge the Department Secretary to suspend her approval of the feasibility study pending final approval of the project by the city.
The developers are collecting deposits for units that may never be built. They have been aggressively marketing units based on the January 22 filings knowing that these plans will have to be changed significantly because of the directives from P&Z. The decision by the Department of Aging to allow the developers to proceed holding free lunches to convince seniors to put $1,000 down does a disservice to those Marylanders the agency is statutorily supposed to protect.
It’s worth mentioning that some of these units will cost as much as $1.4 million for two people with a monthly fee of $5,600—and this doesn’t include health care.
There are more than 40 other options for senior living within a 10-mile radius of Crystal Spring. Two options for Continuing Care Retirement Communities located nearby include BayWoods and Ginger Cove. Both have vacancies with more competitive pricing and are directly on the water in more desirable locations than the traffic-clogged intersection of Forest Drive and Spa Road.
One would think that after years of multiple plans failing to meet city requirements, the developers would want to finally get it right, especially if they were listening to the city’s and opponents’ concerns. But not so. Thus, the battle must continue—indefinitely into the future—to protect the forests, fields, and wetlands of Crystal Spring and our citizens from more life-threatening traffic.