Frederick County commissioners could be forced to take a step backward in their mission to privatize Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living facility.
The city of Frederick’s Zoning Board of Appeals is to make a final decision Nov. 26 on whether the city’s Planning Commission was justified in May when it approved the county’s request to subdivide the centers’ land.
The county asked to split the 41-acre site into two parcels — one with Citizens and Montevue, and the other with the remaining buildings. The land must be subdivided to move forward with the sale of the centers.
After the Planning Commission voted to subdivide the land, commissioners voted to privatize the centers.
A planned sale to Millersville-based Aurora Health Management is not yet final.
The plan has faced staunch opposition from residents and members of the center’s former board of trustees, who think the centers are better off as public entities serving low-income residents.
The board of trustees was dissolved in June when the county commissioners voted to sell the two facilities.
One former board member and two residents appealed the Planning Commission’s decision, saying that the commission should have considered the intent of the subdivision and how the county’s plan for the land would affect city residents.
When the zoning board first considered the case in October, Chairman Jim Racheff and other members said they thought the Planning Commission made mistakes when considering the subdivision.
The commission should have considered the effect of the subdivision, Racheff said.
The zoning board held off on voting on the issue until members could draft a formal decision.
Racheff’s comments left Sonja Sperlich and Don Linton, formerly of the Citizens/Montevue board, feeling hopeful, they said.
“Of course, you never know until the verdict is rendered, but, oh, that would be super fantastic (if it were reversed),” Sperlich said.
Linton thought the zoning board’s conversation was thorough, he said.
“I thought they had discussed it very well,” he said. “I give them credit for being very intelligent.”
John Mathias, the county’s attorney, said he is hopeful that the zoning board “will follow the law and simply affirm the decision.”
Subdividing the land should be a simple process, and if the county has to go to court to make it happen, it will, he said.
If the zoning board reverses the Planning Commission’s decision, the county has the option of appealing to Frederick County Circuit Court.
The county could also file a new application for the subdivision for the Planning Commission to consider.
When asked what the county would do if the decision was reversed, County Commissioners President Blaine Young said he did not anticipate that would happen.
“I don’t want to speculate on that,” he said. “It is a very simple and routine application. It has become political.”
The city attorneys and city staff understand, as can be seen in the city’s staff report, Young said.
Young still hopes the county can finalize the sale of the land by the end of the year, he said, although the city’s case is holding the sale up.
Sperlich and Linton said they are looking forward to next Tuesday’s hearing.
“We are waiting with bated breath, and, of course, once the decision is rendered, we are going to be waiting again,” Sperlich said. “It would serve the citizens and all parties involved if the decision is rendered and both parties could agree with the decision and move on.”
Follow Jen Bondeson on Twitter: @Jen_Bondeson.