- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Building-code violations in Clarksburg are part of a countywide pattern, according to a report released yesterday by a Montgomery County homeowners group, which said the violations are largely the county government’s fault.

The Montgomery County Civic Federation, a consortium of homeowners associations, reported that county building standards have not been enforced at six developments in addition to violations in Clarksburg, which The Washington Times first reported in June.

The county’s affordable-housing program is failing because the county is not requiring builders to construct affordable units as the law requires, the report said.

“The study shows that the site-plan violations in Clarksburg are not an isolated incident, but part of a pattern,” said Jim Humphrey, chairman of the civic federation’s Planning and Land Use Committee.

“There has been inadequate investigation of citizen complaints on the part of the county government,” he said. “The citizens of Clarksburg have been telling folks in government there was a problem for over a year.”

The Washington Times has reported on three of the six developments in the Civic Federation report. Only one of these developments — the Vistas at Woodcliffe Park in Boyds — is close in size to the Clarksburg Town Center, which is planned to include 1,300 homes.

David Weaver, spokesman for County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, said his boss was outraged by the site-plan violations and “appreciates the effort that went into this report.”

The Civic Federation issued the report after a monthlong study prompted by the widespread violations at Clarksburg, where more than 500 homes in July were found to have been built too high or too close to the road.

Planning Board staffer Wynn Witthans was found to have falsified a site plan last fall to try to cover up the violations. Mrs. Witthans, a 17-year Planning Board employee, resigned in May.

The county inspector general and the state special prosecutor are investigating.

To produce the civic federation’s report, about 24 volunteers worked for the past month to collect and copy site plans, building permits and other documents integral to the planning process, Mr. Humphrey said.

Mr. Humphrey said the federation “did not think that an investigation by the county government, which was largely responsible for the problem, would help to restore citizen confidence.”

The report was sent to Mr. Duncan, all County Council members, the county Planning Board, the Department of Permitting Services (DPS) and the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA).

It recommends that the county centralize its building review, permitting and affordable-housing agencies by combining the Planning Board, DPS and DHCA into one agency.

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