Continued from page 2

“Are some people happy? I’d say so,” said Charles H. Dudley, 81, a lifelong Charles County resident.

His son, Charles W. Dudley, said some resent the influx of newcomers, whom he referred to as “imports.”

“The older residents of Charles County are a little tired of seeing all the imports move in and take over the county,” the younger Mr. Dudley said. “There’s been a tidal wave of imports.”

Scott Grieninger, a 63-year-old owner of an automotive-repair shop called Scooter’s Place not far from Hunters Brooke, said he was among those investigators had interviewed. He said he gave investigators his own arson theory.

“Subcontractors sometimes don’t get paid and they sometimes get tired of waiting for their money, and I’ve seen subcontractors do all kinds of things,” he said.

He said the fires would not have been difficult to start. Inside the houses under construction, workers had left turbo heaters, which are industrial heating fans that run on propane or kerosene. “All you needed was someone who wanted to do it,” he said.

Mike Routt, a 36-year-old mechanic at the shop, said he was among the residents who opposed Hunters Brooke because the area didn’t have the schools or other infrastructure necessary to support new neighbors.

“There were a lot of people ticked off because of it,” he said.

Environmentalists sued the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers last year, saying the agencies had violated the Clean Water Act by granting permits that allowed construction at the site.

In July, a judge denied a request for an injunction against construction of the development, but ordered the Corps to provide a more thorough explanation of its decision to authorize the sewer line and a road in the subdivision. The Corps filed an appeal of that decision the same day of the ruling.

• Matthew Cella contributed to this report.