Halle owes county Developer in debt for over $420,000

September 02, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

The developer of the Seven Oaks community in Odenton owes the county more than $420,000 as part of an out-of-court agreement signed in January to avoid a costly legal fight.

The Halle Companies have reneged on three payments of $50,000 each in July, August and September for an elementary school to serve the new 4,700-home subdivision, as well as on water and sewer fees, county officials said.

The debt "is a violation of that agreement," Louise Hayman, spokeswoman for County Executive Robert R. Neall, said last week.

Stephen N. Fleischman, vice president of the Silver Spring-based firm, said yesterday that Halle has not made some of the payments because the county's fee structure puts developers who are having trouble selling homes at a disadvantage.

But Michael G. Leahy, county land use planner, said Halle has taken advantage of two recent changes in the sewer and water fee structures that have benefited developers by allowing them to spread payments out over several months or years.

Warren E. "Cookie" Halle, head of the firm, met last Thursday afternoon with Mr. Neall to negotiate payments.

"We are discussing a resolution to these issues," said Ms. Hayman. "The county executive recommended that Mr. Halle continue to discuss compliance with the Planning and Zoning Department and the Department of Utilities."

Mr. Fleischman said yesterday that the company is having trouble making some of the payments because of sluggish housing sales in the recession.

Halle ended a 15-month battle with the county in January when it agreed to pay $1.5 million in schools and sewer fees over a one-year schedule.

The company owed $1.2 million for sewer and water allocations and has paid $800,000. More than $270,000 of the $445,000 outstanding was due by Aug. 23. The developer has also paid half of the $300,000 required for a new school at Seven Oaks.

As a result of the agreement, the county and Mr. Halle dropped lawsuits each had filed in a dispute over the expansion of the Patuxent Waste Water Treatment Plant. The company can only build 2,900 homes until the plant increases its capacity.

Mr. Fleischman said he did not know of the meeting between Mr. Halle and Mr. Neall, and he refused to comment on why or whether his company is not paying the school installments.

He said the developer is withholding payments for sewer and water hookups because the current plan charges for lots even though homes don't exist. Those charges can be met only if sales are going well, he explained.

"How do you make the payments if you are not selling houses?" Mr. Fleischman asked. "You can't make enough money to pay the fees."

He said the development, at the intersection of Maryland Routes 32 and 175, has sold about 450 single-family and town homes and has rented another 270 apartments, about half of what the company expected.

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