Residents fight developer over forest removal

August 03, 1993|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Staff Writer Staff writer Dan Thanh Dang contributed to this article.

Crestwood Homes promised trees, but didn't deliver, residents of Seven Oaks claim. And now they are asking the attorney general for help.

The residents claimed in a petition that Crestwood, the Greenbelt-based builder of their homes near Fort Meade, reneged on verbal agreements with some of them to leave intact a large, dense woods nearby.

Crestwood Homes claimed in advertising fliers that the woods behind homes from 250 to 270 St. Michaels Circle would serve as a "lovely" backdrop, according to the petition signed in May by 21 homeowners and addressed to the state attorney general's office.

Crestwood Homes sales representatives also assured prospective buyers that the trees -- which the representatives said were designated as "protected woodlands" -- would be preserved for their benefit, according to the petition.

But about two months ago, the developer began to cut down many of the trees to make way for new townhouses -- despite assurances that the forest would remain intact, residents contend. "The main selling point for me was to see this tree line -- especially at night," complained Marcus Wilkins, 33, who moved from a nearby apartment complex to 270 St. Michaels Circle in January.

Cecilia Dowgwillo, 26, of 262 St. Michaels Circle, said the crews began working at 7 a.m. weekdays.

"It's not only frustrating that they took down the trees, but they also burned the trees in an incinerator," she said. "They didn't even think to recycle them for something else."

The petition accuses Crestwood Homes of "misrepresentation and fraud" and asks the attorney general to pursue legal action. Martha Witte, a sales representative for Crestwood, said she was instructed "not to talk about that silliness" and referred questions to general manager Cindy Taylor, who was unavailable.

Lillie Covert, of the attorney general's Consumer Protection Division, was to meet with the residents last night to gather information and refer it to officials who would decide whether to take action.

The meeting and petition were the work of former state Del. John R. Leopold, a 31st District Republican who experienced a similar situation in his own Chesterfield neighborhood nine years ago.

Mr. Leopold petitioned the attorney general's office for help then, and Ryan Homes, the builders, agreed to replant about 70 trees at a cost of about $3,500; to compensate the Consumer Protection Division for the cost of its investigation; and to delete misleading material about adjacent lots. Mr. Leopold said he called St. Michaels Circle residents after reading of their plight.

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