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Published: Tuesday, 8/29/2006

Settlement reached on 'active adult' community

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

One year after a fair housing group took on popular "active adult" communities with a discrimination lawsuit against one of the most successful such projects in metro Toledo, a settlement was announced yesterday with developers.

Waterside, a mostly completed 600-unit villa and condominium development in Monclova Township, will now market itself as a "55 and older community," a type of development allowed under federal housing laws.

Michael Marsh, a spokesman for the plaintiff, Toledo's Fair Housing Center, expressed satisfaction with the resolution of the case, filed in U.S. District Court in Toledo in August, 2005.

"They're going to try to do the right thing by abiding with HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] policy," he said. "We believe that their intent all along was to be 55-plus. But they were using language that could be construed as discriminatory."

The nonprofit center is studying court action against other so-called active adult communities locally, he added.

The court challenge took aim at an increasingly popular type of subdivision that critics say illegally discourages potential buyers with children but fails to comply with rigorous federal housing laws that allow senior-citizen-only complexes.

Motivated in part by the vanity - and improved health - of older Americans who don't view themselves as elderly, active-adult communities have been cropping up around the nation.

They typically include tennis courts, walking trails, and gyms, and sometimes prohibit owners from putting up swing sets and basketball hoops.

Housing laws permit senior-citizen complexes as long as at least 80 percent of the residences include at least one person 55 or older.

Watermark Ltd., developer of Waterside, which is off Monclova Road about a mile west of St. Luke's Hospital, advertised itself as for active adults and empty nesters.

Although the firm denied discriminating against families with children, partner Duane Ankney said yesterday he is satisfied with the settlement. A survey of Waterside owners found that 84 percent of households met criteria to qualify the development as a senior citizens project.

He intends to market a new project in Sylvania Township also known as Waterside as a 55-plus community.

Amendments to federal fair housing laws a decade ago clarified requirements for such developments, he noted. For one, they dropped a requirement that the project include "significant facilities and services specifically designed to meet the physical or social needs of older persons."

Mr. Ankney predicted that other active adult communities will convert to 55-plus communities.

"One of the biggest things is getting all of us educated as to the current housing laws," he said.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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