Homeowners unhappy about lack of trees Builder's promise broken, they say WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

September 07, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

Twenty-one homeowners in an Odenton development want their builder to give them new houses or $50,000 each, saying his advertisements touted backyard woods that were later cut down.

A meeting between the builder, Crestwood Homes, and representatives from the state attorney general's office has been scheduled for the end of the month to discuss a way to settle the dispute.

"We wouldn't have purchased the home if we knew those trees would come down," said Cecilia Dowgwillo, who lives in the 200 block of St. Michaels Circle, in the new Seven Oaks community.

"There is no way we could sell it now," she said. "All I want is to be reimbursed for my losses."

Seven Oaks is a sprawling community off Route 175 that eventually could be the site for 4,700 homes. Residents said the cost of homes in their section averages $150,000.

The homeowners have signed a petition claiming that the Greenbelt-based Crestwood reneged on verbal agreements with some of them to leave intact a large, dense woods nearby.

The builder claimed in advertising fliers that the woods behind the homes would serve as a "lovely" backdrop, according to the petition.

Crestwood Homes sales representatives also assured prospective buyers that the trees would be preserved because they sit on "protected woodlands," the petition contends.

Seven Oaks' developer, The Halle Cos., sold adjacent lots to another builder, who began cutting down many of the trees to make room for townhouses.

Ms. Dowgwillo said that she has since learned that the developer had plans recorded with the county dating to 1986 to develop the land and take down the trees.

She said Crestwood sales representatives either knew or should have known about those plans. "When you go out and buy a home, you assume the people selling it to you can't misrepresent themselves," Ms. Dowgwillo said.

In addition to their demands for a new house or $50,000, each homeowner wants Crestwood to replace the trees.

The general manager for Crestwood Homes, Cindy Taylor, said she has been instructed not to comment on the case. But she did confirm she will represent the builder at the meeting in the attorney general's office.

"I'm sure at that time you'll understand what is going on," she said.

A sales representative at Crestwood's Odenton office, Martha Witte, said in an interview last month that she was instructed "not to talk about that silliness" regarding the trees.

The two officials handling the case at the attorney general's office were not available for comment on Friday. Mr. Leopold said the meeting has been scheduled for the week of Sept. 20.

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