Construction will begin this fall on the first high-rise condominiums built at Rossmoor Leisure World, a sprawling, retirement community of duplex, town house and low-rise condominiums and cooperatives in the Norbeck area of Silver Spring.
Although "a vocal minority" of the residents opposes the tall structures, plans call for 10 high-rises to be built around an existing 18-hole golf course, a spokesman for the developer said. The new units should double the population of the community in about 10 years, say officials of Rossmoor-IDI Associates, a development partnership formed in 1980 to finish construction of the 18-year-old residential project.
Plans for the first four 10-story structures, known as The Greens, were approved earlier this year by the Montgomery County Planning Board. Patterned after other recreation-oriented high-rises built by IDI--including The Rotunda in McLean and Montebello in Alexandria--each of the four buildings will have 250 units with prices ranging from $70,000 for one bedroom to $135,000 for three bedrooms.
About 4,400 residents--all over 50 years old, as stipulated by county zoning codes for retirement communities--now live in more than 2,700 dwellings orginally developed by Ross W. Cortese's Rossmoor Construction Corp. on the 618-acre tract at Georgia Avenue and Norbeck Road. The Cortese firm became a limited partner when it joined in 1980 with International Developers Inc. (IDI), headed by Giuseppe Cecchi.
Since Montgomery County zoning regulations permit the development of a total of about 5,700 units at Leisure World, the developers contacted residents and community leaders when planning began and presented them with alternatives calling for about 2,700 new units, including some low-rise options, Cecchi said this week. There was a "tremendous response" in favor of the high-rise buildings, he said.
"If we would continue to develop low-rise units, we would obstruct the view of the golf course," he said, also noting that the high-rise construction has been planned "to minimize the destruction of trees." He said that the 17 citizens associations that comprise the Leisure World Community Council voted unanimously in favor of the high-rise solution. "There are only very few of the residents who are opposed to our project," he said.
"The position of the organized community was in favor of the high-rise project," said James L. Nammack, chairman of the residents' community council. Although the low-rise versus high-rise question has become a controversy, "it hasn't split the community, because the anti-high-rise people are in a distinct minority," he said.
Everett H. F. Felber, who was chairman of the community council when plans for the The Greens were approved by the planning board, said, "It would be too much to expect all the residents to be in agreement," but that "the community as a whole would prefer the new construction to be high rise." He noted that the Rossmoor Corp.'s original master plan for Leisure World--drawn up in the 1960s--had called for high-rise construction.
Nevertheless, Anne Mazor, who said she has "an aversion to high-rises," is vehemently opposed to the new construction and testified against the project at the county planning hearings. "Plans are made to be broken," said the five-year Leisure World resident. "It wasn't written in stone that you have to build high-rise dwellings just because they were in the plans 15 years ago," she said.
Leisure World "is really too pretty a place to be ruined like this. And that's what the high-rises will do," she said, also noting that the increased population probably will result in higher taxes and condominium fees, as well as traffic congestion and pollution.
"If I wanted to live in a high-rise environment, I didn't have to come to Leisure World, I could have lived in New York City," said resident Bernard Papure. He said he testified against the new development at the county planning hearing because "I was afraid of creeping high-rises" that might overwhelm the retirement community by overtaxing the parking and recreation facilities.
IDI plans to build additional recreation facilities concurrent with construction of The Greens, including an indoor swimming pool, tennis courts and bowling lanes, Cecchi said. Settlement fees of about $2,200 per unit will go into a fund administered by the community council for the maintenance and construction of the proposed facilities, he added, noting that the sale of 2,700 units over the next 10 years would provide about $6 million.
However, some residents plan to hold the high-rise development down to the four buildings already approved, said resident Norman Hoffman. "We were not an organized group. We never thought of hiring an attorney, or filing suit, or anything like that," he said about opposition to The Greens. But when IDI tries to get approval from the county for the six additional structures, "we think we have a pretty good shot at defeating it," he said. "We're a bunch of oldsters out here, but I'm not ready to roll over and play dead," he added.