Family Plans Retirement Community At Manor

By Susan DeFord
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 3, 2007

The prominent Carroll family in Howard County wants to see a portion of its 892-acre estate developed into an expansive retirement community, and local officials hope that in return for their support, the family will not allow development of the remainder of the historic property.

The Carrolls, whose ancestor Charles Carroll was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, said last week that they have been talking with representatives of Erickson Retirement Communities, a national builder of continuing-care facilities based in Catonsville, Md. Howard officials who've spoken with Erickson representatives say the facility could include more than 1,000 units. It would require an extension of county water and sewer utilities to serve a complex covering as much as 150 acres.

"I am open to the idea," said County Executive Ken Ulman (D), who plans to tour Riderwood, an Erickson facility in Silver Spring, this week along with County Council member Courtney Watson (D-Northeast County). "I want to make sure it would be the right fit in terms of traffic impact and size and scope."

In exchange for county support, officials want the Carroll family to place the remainder of the estate, known as Doughoregan Manor, in preservation permanently.

"Having as much of the property as possible preserved in perpetuity is goal number one," Ulman said.

Historians and other local officials also are eager to settle on a plan for Doughoregan, one of the last open expanses in rapidly developing Howard, especially since a protective, 30-year state easement on the property expired in May.

"We have to find a way preserve it, or we say goodbye to it," said Watson, whose district includes Doughoregan (pronounced Doe-RAY-gun).

Zoning on the land permits hundreds of homes on one-acre lots, and developers have been willing to pay $75,000 or more an acre for prime farmland in Howard, less than an hour's drive from downtown Washington.

But Camilla Carroll and her brother Philip D. Carroll have indicated that they don't want that kind of development. Preservationists insist that county officials already have allowed too much growth.

The Carrolls say they've been trying for years to keep Doughoregan in family hands, while raising millions of dollars needed for taxes and to restore the two-dozen 18th-century buildings. Historians say that Doughoregan is one of the nation's few intact colonial treasures.

At the time of the American Revolution, when Charles Carroll became the only Roman Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence, the Carroll family owned tens of thousands of acres in Maryland, but over generations, the family has sold much of its property. Its country estate at Doughoregan, named for the Carrolls' ancient Irish homeland, includes a two-story, brick manor house the length of a football field, stone barns and tenant farmer houses.

Preservationists have pushed to save the entire estate, but the Carrolls have said that approach doesn't provide enough money to restore and maintain the property over the long run.

"We believe we've found the perfect solution," Camilla Carroll wrote in an e-mail Friday. "The revenue from the project would be sufficient for our family to repair aging buildings and ensure our family's legacy can be passed to future generations."

Carroll, who represents the ninth generation of her family to live at Doughoregan, said the Erickson proposal had "tremendous advantages," because it would require less land than a typical housing development and would have less impact on surrounding roads, schools and government services. Erickson Retirement Communities are self-contained campuses that include shopping, medical facilities, restaurants and transportation.

Brad Phillips, a Washington media consultant, said the publicity-averse Carrolls have adopted a higher profile with this proposal.

"When people in the community have a lack of information, they get very suspicious and worried," Phillips said. "We felt that if we have the ability to explain, we could prevent that from happening."

Residents of the neighborhoods surrounding Doughoregan are just learning of the development proposal.

"A life-care facility might be better than a whole lot of houses," said Angela Beltram, an Ellicott City resident and former County Council and Planning Board member who has frequently criticized the county's handling of development issues.

"I would only approve it if the rest of the property was not ever developed in perpetuity," she said. "Otherwise, what are you getting from it?"

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