The Frederick Planning Commission will allow the county to split its property that houses the Montevue Assisted Living center on Rosemont Avenue in the city — a move some fear will open the door to the eventual sale of the facility.
The five-member board’s unanimous vote Monday allows Frederick County to divide the land into two properties — one with the new Montevue Home and the Citizens Care & Rehabilitation Center, and the other containing the rest of the property, which will be used for county office space and storage.
The meeting, held at City Hall in downtown Frederick, drew dozens of protesters, many of whom said they feared the split would allow the county to sell off the nursing home, leaving a gap for poor residents who use the home. Sixty beds in the 75-room Montevue Assisted Living facility are reserved for low-income residents.
Frederick resident George Rudy, who was one of about 10 who testified, said the current Frederick County Board of Commissioners has shown a lack of sensitivity for social issues and would not continue to run the facility.
“The Board of County Commissioners has no social conscience,” Rudy said. “We know that. They proved it with Head Start, and now they’re doing it with senior citizens.”
He was referring to the county’s 2011 cut in funding for the federal Head Start program, which provides early education for low-income children.
The commissioners took requests for the sale or lease of the Montevue Assisted Living facility and Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center in Frederick in an effort to save a $5 million annual subsidy to operate the two homes. The process ended March 12.
The county has previously said it intends to use the old assisted-living facility to house public works employees. But that has been delayed due to a city planning commission decision last month to require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do chemical testing because of the site’s proximity to Fort Detrick’s Area B, a former dumping ground for cancer-causing chemicals.
Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) said the board needs to make a decision on selling the facilities because the county’s contract with LW Consulting Inc., the Harrisburg, Pa., firm that manages the two homes, expires on June 30.
County Attorney John Mathias said no decision has been made on the sale of the facilities, but that the appropriate time to raise such concerns would be if a sale were proposed, for which public hearings would be held.
“Folks have raised some concerns — I know they’re important, but almost all of them have nothing to do with your decision this evening,” he told the planning board Monday. “If this property is to be sold at some time in the future, that will be done by the elected Board of County Commissioners. That’s the proper forum for the concerns you heard this evening. There’s no change in use. This is subdivision. All you’re doing is making a larger property into two.”
Planning commission member Rick Stup said he understood residents’ concerns, and personally shared them, but noted that the owner of the land has the right to modify the property.
“We have absolutely no control over this or any property that comes before us,” he said.
Alderman Kelly Russell (D), who is also a member of the planning commission, said the panel needed to vote on the proposal without considering the potential impact of a later decision because that is not the board’s responsibility.
“While we may agree completely morally, emotionally, and all of those things, we have to make sure the decisions we make are based on the code and are legally defensible, so we don’t subject our citizens to those things,” she said. “A lawsuit against the city for acting improperly is not in the citizens’ best interest.”