- The Washington Times - Friday, July 8, 2005

The Montgomery County Inspector General’s Office has begun an investigation of building-height and setback violations in a multimillion-dollar housing development in Clarksburg.

The probe will focus on a county Planning Board report issued last week that said a staffer altered site plans and lied about it to cover up violations in the construction of the Clarksburg Town Center.

“We will look at the altered document that was reported and any others that come to our attention,” County Inspector General Thomas J. Dagley said yesterday. “We’re collecting information from those who read the newspaper articles.”

The Washington Times first reported the violations last week.

Mr. Dagley said criminal charges would be filed if his investigation finds cause, but the state’s attorney would determine those charges. A state’s attorney spokesman declined to comment, saying it would be speculative.

The Planning Board has promised a thorough review of its process by an outside party. Mr. Dagley said he is monitoring the audit but his office will not take part in it.

The Planning Board report said board employee Wynn Witthans altered site plans last fall to say that buildings in the 1,300-home development could be no higher than four stories. Original plans included data tables with height limits of 35 feet and 45 feet.

Mrs. Witthans lied to the board at an April 14 hearing about the alterations, the report said, but later admitted making them. She has since resigned, said Rose Krasnow, chief of development review for the Planning Board.

The board ruled in April that there were no violations, based on Mrs. Witthans’ testimony, and had to reconsider its decision after her admission.

The board ruled Thursday that nearly 500 of the 725 homes built so far are built in violation of site plans.

The board did not discuss the altered site plans during a 10-hour hearing Thursday except to say they resulted from an overworked employee who was working in good faith.

Mrs. Witthans yesterday declined to comment on whether she has hired an attorney and whether she is currently employed.

The board delayed imposing up to $1.2 million in fines until a July 28 hearing. In the interim, it will examine other problems documented by the Clarksburg Town Center Advisory Committee (CTCAC), the citizens group that uncovered the altered site plans.

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