- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Montgomery County Planning Board yesterday named an interim director of Park and Planning as part of its ongoing reform effort in the wake of the Clarksburg building scandal.

Faroll Hamer, an 18-year employee with the Prince George’s County Department of Planning, will serve as Montgomery’s acting director until a permanent director is named next summer or fall, a spokeswoman said.

“I am looking forward to addressing the challenges and revitalizing the way in which development reviews are conducted,” said Mrs. Hamer, 60.

Mrs. Hamer, a registered landscape architect with a master’s degree in the field, has overseen development review in Prince George’s County since 1998. She supervised the urban design section in Prince George’s for 10 years before that.

Montgomery’s development review division was the epicenter of the problems that has led to a shake-up of the county planning agency, which had been looked to as a national leader.

Montgomery’s Park and Planning has been without an acting director since Charles Loehr retired on Oct. 31 after 26 years with the agency.

Mr. Loehr retired during revelations that a 1,300-home development in Clarksburg had been altered numerous times by developers without public notice and that county planners had signed off on some of the changes.

Planner Wynn Witthans also admitted that she had altered a site plan last fall to hide building violations in Clarksburg Town Center, after a community group had complained to the Planning Board and county council.

The Planning Board has ruled that more than 500 homes, of about 800 completed, are too high or too close to the street and that developer Newland Communities, of San Diego, has skimped on providing parks, trails, open spaces and other amenities.

Park and Planning staff have recommended that Newland and the five builders involved at Clarksburg be fined $2.1 million, but that fine may be eliminated during two-month mediation talks between citizens and developers that began late last month.

Meanwhile, the Montgomery County inspector general is continuing his investigation into fraud or abuse on the part of county planners or developers. He plans to issue a report sometime next month, a source said.

Montgomery County and Prince George’s County have separate lanning boards and planning departments, but both are part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a state agency.

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