- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Pressure from Clarksburg residents and members of the County Council to address a broad range of construction problems led the Montgomery County Planning Board to postpone a sanctions hearing for building violations.

Council member Steve Silverman last Wednesday received a copy of a letter from the Clarksburg Town Center Advisory Committee (CTCAC) that listed other suspected violations that have not yet been fully investigated.

The CTCAC, a group of residents who uncovered building violations in Clarksburg, originally sent the letter to the Planning Board on July 14.

The Planning Board had been scheduled to issue fines and penalties Thursday against builders who erected 535 homes in violation of height and setback limits at the Clarksburg Town Center. Instead, it rescheduled the hearing for Sept. 22.

Mr. Silverman sent a memo to Planning Board Chairman Derek Berlage last Wednesday. “It is critical that the Board conduct a prompt and thorough review of all the complaints and act on them in an expeditious manner,” he wrote.

He asked Mr. Berlage to inform him by today “what your timetable for action is.”

Mr. Berlage and Robert Hubbard, director of the Department of Permitting Services, will brief the County Council today.

They will give “a recap of what the problems were, what they are doing about them, and timelines in which both agencies will go about implementing needed changes,” a Planning Board spokeswoman said yesterday.

The Washington Times last month first reported about the building violations at the Clarksburg Town Center.

CTCAC members had worked for a year to document what they said were widespread building violations and a cover-up by Planning Board staff.

The board confirmed in a June 28 report that former staffer Wynn Witthans had falsified site plans to cover up height and setback violations in the 1,300-home Clarksburg development.

According to the report, Mrs. Witthans, who has since resigned, lied about her falsification during an April meeting in which the Planning Board ruled no violations had occurred.

On July 7, the Planning Board found that 535 homes violated height and setback restrictions.

About 725 homes had been built by then, and the board said that only 50 other homes with contracts could still be built. It did not specify what would happen to unbuilt homes without contracts.

Last week, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan froze construction on all homes in the county that require a site plan until they can be reviewed by the Planning Board and the Department of Permitting Services for site-plan compliance.

Meanwhile, County Inspector General Thomas J. Dagley is conducting an investigation into “allegations of fraud” at the Clarksburg site.

In addition, the Maryland state special prosecutor and the County Council’s Office of Legislative Affairs also are conducting investigations into the building violations.

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