Unfinished Development Upsets Town House Owners

Frogs Breed Inside Parking Area Of Pilgrim's Ridge

April 22, 1992|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff writer

In the eyes of the owners of 70 townhouses in Pilgrim's Ridge in North Laurel, it's a case of abandonment by their developer and inactionby the county government.

In the eyes of the county government, it's a legal tug-of-war that has never happened before.

In the eyes of the developer, it's not his problem.

No matter whose eyes it's seen from, however, there are still frogs breeding infresh spring water in the Pilgrim's Ridge parking area.

The firstresidents of Pilgrim's Ridge moved in six years ago, the last moved in three years ago.

The development, though, remains unfinished.

Spring water bubbles up through cracked, unfinished pavement. It ripples through a series of algae-clouded ponds between the pastel-stained wooden-siding-covered townhouses, runs along a curb and into a storm drain.

From there, it runs through a corrugated pipe which empties into a crude muddy ditch that runs behind the townhouses until it empties into an overgrown, unfinished storm water management pond.

"I'm angry about this, but more frustrated than anything else," said Jonathan Brown, who has lived with water and ice in front of his house for about two years. "It's unfortunate that we have this type ofthing because this could be one of the nicest townhouse communities around here."

For about a year, the development's homeowners association has been pushing the county to force the bondholder to surrender the $233,725 bond in order to make the needed repairs.

In 1990,county public works engineers estimated the repairs would cost $111,600.

Since 1989, the county has been after Reliable Homes Inc. of Severna Park to finish work on the development, said F. Todd Taylor Jr., senior assistant county solicitor.

"The Steffeys would come inand do a little bit, and then they'd stop," said Taylor of company officers John W. Steffey Sr. and his son, John W. Steffey Jr.

Taylor said he has prepared a lawsuit against the Steffeys, Reliable and the bondholder, International Fidelity of Newark, N.J., but has not filed it yet.

He said he is waiting to find out whether International Fidelity, which has sued the Steffeys in federal court, can collect.

"Normally, it doesn't go this far," he said of cases where developers default on their agreements with the county to provide public works such as roads and storm drains. In fact, it's the first time a case has progressed to the extreme of preparing a lawsuit to collect abond, Taylor said.

The residents of Pilgrim's Ridge believe that John Steffey Jr. is in Florida somewhere.

"Not true," said John Steffey Jr., speaking yesterday from the Severna Park real estate office he manages.

"I was a representative for the development group and the superintendent and project manager," Steffey said. That makes him an employee with no responsibility for the faults of the owners, First Ridge Limited Partnership. He would not name any of the partners. He blames a contractor on neighboring property for the flooded paving.

Neil Henrichsen, whose Washington law firm represents International Fidelity, said he yesterday he could not comment on the case until he had consulted with his client.

An attorney representing theassociation, Dwight W. Clark, said Pilgrim's Ridge homeowners don't want the county to delay filing suit to collect the money.

"It means they've left things hanging again," Clark said. "The community wants action. They don't want to hear this."

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