- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A consortium of homeowner associations says builders have violated Montgomery County’s affordable-housing laws in a development that was overseen by the same planning official who forged a site plan in Clarksburg.

Builders have not constructed 102 affordable-housing units in the Vistas at Woodcliffe Park near Germantown, as required by county law, said the Montgomery County Civic Federation.

The county requires that affordable housing, or moderately priced dwelling units, be interspersed and built simultaneously with single-family homes and town houses.

Jim Humphrey, chairman of civic federation’s Planning and Land Use Committee, said builders often try to shirk their obligations to build moderately priced units, which yield much lower profits than single-family homes.

The county’s Planning Board is responsible for ensuring that affordable housing is built. Former staffer Wynn Witthans, who falsified a site plan for the Clarksburg Town Center, oversaw plans for Woodcliffe Park, county officials and residents said.

“It’s another situation with a lot of screw-ups along the way, and it’s unclear why [the moderately priced units] didn’t get built,” said Montgomery County Council member Mike Knapp, Germantown Democrat. “It’s another example of lack of oversight, or I don’t know.”

County planning officials did not return calls seeking comment about Woodcliffe Park, the civic federation’s complaints or Mrs. Witthans.

Mrs. Witthans, who has resigned from the Planning Board, was unavailable for comment.

Woodcliffe Park resident Tom Reinheimer, chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, said builders initially told residents they had been exempted from affordable-housing requirements because they were going to build housing for seniors.

Now, though, Premier Homes is telling residents that there is no requirement to build senior housing and it instead will build a cluster of low-income housing on a five-acre tract, he said.

“It’s caused a lot of angst,” Mr. Reinheimer said. “Is it going to be a bunch of low-income housing, or is it going to be the senior housing we were told it was going to be?”

Officials for Premier Homes did not return calls seeking comment.

The Vistas at Woodcliffe Park is part of a 1,400-home development called Kings Crossing that the Planning Board approved in 1996.

Arcola Investment Associates, the master developer, was given permission to build 1,096 single-family homes, 195 town houses and the 102 moderately priced units. Arcola officials were not available for comment.

Single-family homes in Woodcliffe Park originally sold for $400,000 to $700,000 and now sell for $600,000 to $900,000.

NVHomes and Craftmark/Craftstar Homes were involved at Clarksburg and also were part of the building process at Woodcliffe Park. The builders were not available for comment.

The Planning Board already is embroiled in a scandal involving Mrs. Witthans and the 1,300-home Clarksburg Town Center. She altered a site plan in the fall to hide the fact that 535 homes were built too high or too close to the street.

Clarksburg residents brought the violations and then Mrs. Witthans’ actions to the Planning Board’s attention.

Other violations in Clarksburg are being investigated, and Montgomery County’s inspector general and the state special prosecutor are investigating Mrs. Witthans’ actions.

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