- The Washington Times - Monday, October 10, 2005

A Montgomery County citizens group yesterday proposed that the Planning Board hold three more days of violations hearings to more comprehensively address problems in Clarksburg. Board members indicated last week they will expand their examination.

Only one additional violations hearing, on Oct. 25, is currently scheduled, with a sanctions hearing scheduled Nov. 3. But board Chairman Derick P. Berlage said the Oct. 25 date was “flexible” after three of the five board commissioners said the board should look further into complaints.

“It’s a demonstration that there is the potential for integrity to be restored,” said Amy Presley, co-chairwoman of the Clarksburg Town Center Advisory Committee (CTCAC), after the hearing.

Yesterday, Mrs. Presley, a self-employed business consultant, sent a letter to Michele Rosenfeld, the Planning Board’s legal counsel, with a proposal for the hearings schedule.

The CTCAC has uncovered a series of building code problems in Clarksburg over the past 14 months, and their list of violations and potential violations covers 12 categories. On Thursday, they accused the developer, Newland Communities, of San Diego, of illegally building the 1,300-home Clarksburg Town Center by implementing their own plans instead of the ones on record with the county.

CTCAC says whole blocks have been changed; development features that added to a town center or small-town feel have been removed; lots, streets and alley sizes have been reduced; grading and elevation changes have been made; and Newland has skimped on parks,playgrounds, pools, other amenities, and on affordable housing.

The Planning Board found in July that more than 500 homes were built too high or too close to the street, and that the planning staffer in charge of Clarksburg Town Center, Wynn Witthans, had falsified a site plan drawing to hide the violations.

Ms. Witthans resigned and Park and Planning Director Charles E. Loehr has announced he will retire at the end of this month after 25 years with the agency.

On Thursday, the board found Newland guilty of providing inadequate amenities, but deferred a vote on affordable housing.

Commissioner Meredith K. Wellington urged the board to rule on Clarksburg issues as a whole, and not piece by piece.

“We need to develop a list of all the items that come up through our investigation with clarity … and then give notice and time to examine, and hold a hearing on them,” she said.

Mrs. Presley’s letter recommends that her group and Newland’s attorneys each be given four hours on two consecutive days to debate the details of each of the 12 categories. An additional hour would be provided each day for public comment.

Planning Board staff, in the Department of Park and Planning, would present their recommendations on a third day, and the board would deliberate until it reached a decision.

“We were hoping to be proactive rather than waiting for their proposal,” Mrs. Presley said.

“The chairman and the staff are discussing with both the community members and the developers the possibility of restructuring future hearings on Clarksburg violations. Final decisions have not yet been made,” said Nancy Lineman, Planning Board spokeswoman.

Newland spokesman Charles Maier said the developer had “no reaction until we know that the Planning Board wants to extend the hearing. It’s up to them.”

The Planning Board intended to limit last Thursday’s hearing to a few minor issues, but CTCAC members ignored the board’s parameters. They argued that the problems at Clarksburg must be examined as parts of a whole.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide