- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 29, 2005

Montgomery County planners said yesterday they have found problems with some of the almost 8,000 homes planned for the Clarksburg area, although many have not begun construction.

The Department of Park and Planning’s assessment came after it reviewed plans for 7,832 homes approved by the Planning Board, in addition to the 1,300-home Clarksburg Town Center. Multiple violations have been found at the Clarksburg Town Center. The Montgomery County Planning Board has scheduled hearings on violations for Oct. 6 and Oct. 25.

“Because of what’s been going on in Clarksburg Town Center, we clearly have been looking at all these developments to see if other, similar problems exist. And at least in some cases we have discovered a few,” Rose Krasnow, the department’s chief of development review told the Planning Board at a hearing yesterday.

“We have discovered some lot sizes that seem to be smaller than required by the development table, and we have … a couple of projects where the development standards in terms of height and setback are not actually established in the plan,” she said.

Mrs. Krasnow said after the hearing that there is a problem with setbacks, or the distance between a home and the road, in Clarksburg Village.

That development is being built by Elm Street Development, which is involved at Clarksburg Town Center and has been accused of building as many as 24 luxury town homes in the Bethesda Crest development too high and too close to the street.

Elm Street Development President David Flanagan did not return a phone call seeking comment yesterday.

More than 100 homes at Clarksburg Town Center were built too close to the street. Builders will be issued fines for that violation and others at a Nov. 3 sanctions hearing.

Mrs. Krasnow said she was not ready to go into detail on how many homes in Clarksburg had problems. She said that “at this point” the problems do not appear to be as severe as those found at Clarksburg Town Center.

Teams of up to four Park and Planning staffers are reviewing each development, she said.

Mrs. Krasnow’s disclosure yesterday came near the end of a 45-minute briefing on roads and infrastructure in Clarksburg. The subject of building violations at the Clarksburg Town Center came up, even though it was not scheduled to be discussed.

County activists expressed concern over Mrs. Krasnow’s disclosure yesterday.

“How many homes are there [with problems]? It would help the commissioners to know that,” said Jim Humphrey, of the Montgomery County Civic Federation, a consortium of homeowners associations.

Mr. Humphrey said he is urging the Clarksburg Civic Association to meet with the Clarksburg Town Center Advisory Committee (CTCAC) and learn how to access county planning records, find out what the county law is and how to check planning records with the law.

Clarksburg is being transformed from a small, mostly rural farming town of a few hundred homes into the last major community along Interstate 270 in Montgomery County. In the end, about 14,000 homes are expected to be built.

Clarksburg Town Center was the first major development in the transformation, and developers said it would be an example of “new urbanism,” similar to the Kentlands in Gaithersburg and Reston Town Center in Northern Virginia.

Homes would be built in citylike grids with a pedestrian-friendly layout, which would enable residents to walk to a town center to shop.

The CTCAC first noticed a difference between what was promised and what was materializing in August 2004.

Since then, committee members have spent thousands of hours documenting what they say are widespread building violations that point to a larger problem at the Park and Planning Department. They say the county has not monitored or enforced specific building codes requirements.

“Our mission is to change this current climate of developer free rein,” said Amy Presley, CTCAC co-chairwoman.

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