Developer told to clean up its act Residents complain Glen Pines' builder has created a mess

July 05, 1996|By Erica C. Harrington | Erica C. Harrington,SUN STAFF

Residents in a Jessup neighborhood have experienced flat tires, flooded back yards and cars stuck in muddy holes ever since an Annapolis developer began building a subdivision there 14 months ago.

Neighbors blame the developer, Maryland Family Homes Inc., saying the new Glen Pines subdivision near the intersection of U.S. 1 and Guilford Road has turned their once quiet street into a muddy, rocky construction zone.

But Anthony W. March, chairman and CEO of Maryland Family Homes, says the problems were caused by an unusually wet winter and spring that kept the company from bringing the proper heavy equipment to the site.

And both sides say the conflict is due partly to a quirk in the application of the county's Adequate Public Facilities Law, adopted in 1992 to control growth and reaffirmed by the Howard County Council last week in the face of attempts to weaken it.

The ordinance requires builders to submit site development plans that measure the impact a particular development will have on the community. The plan must include designs for roads and sewer and storm water management.

But because the land that Maryland Family Homes is building was divided into lots in 1952, the ordinance does not apply.

As a result, while Maryland Family Homes did not have to submit a site development plan for the new subdivision, the developer had to get separate building permits for each of 16 lots.

March said the zoning rule made the project take longer because it prevented his company from developing the whole site at one time.

Construction on the homes at Glen Pines began in May 1995. Glenn Court resident Elfie Winstead said she began noticing trouble with the developer's work last December when she couldn't back her car out of her driveway because it was covered with water and mud.

A drainage ditch had run along her driveway, but construction workers destroyed the ditch, she said, and planted trees there. The trees later died.

"I could tell there would be problems because [March] didn't put in any infrastructure for drainage or electric -- it was an after-thought," said Winstead, who has lived on Glenn Court for two years.

Ten-year Glenn Court resident Kim Cowger said she has replaced three flat tires and repaired damage to her driveway from heavy construction trucks backing into it. She said she is skeptical of March's promise to finish repairs to storm water ditches and roads by Labor Day.

"I don't trust his word," Cowger said. "I mean, we had to fix our own driveway -- it was obvious he wasn't going to do it."

March said part of the problem has been communication between his company and residents. He said he has had written and spoken contact with residents in an attempt to listen to their concerns. A meeting between the new home owners and the developer is planned for this evening.

"Wherever there's a broken road, we'll fix it; wherever there's a dead tree, we'll replace it," March said. "As weather allows, we'll be on the case."

Republican County Councilman Dennis R. Schrader, who has been coordinating communication between the residents and county officials, said it is too early to tell whether the conflict would lead to any changes in the Adequate Public Facilities Law.

"We just want to figure out a way to prevent this from happening again," said Schrader, who represents the area.

And despite the company's exemption from the ordinance, Howard County officials are not without authority to make sure Maryland Family Homes lives up to its promises.

David Hammerman, director of inspections, licenses and permits for Howard County, said his office can withhold certificates of occupancy on the homes, which would mean new residents could not move into their homes.

The private road Maryland Family Homes built for access to the new homes will have to be paved to match the county road that connects with it. Hammerman said a letter of credit had been filed with his office to ensure that the road will be finished.

Not all residents have had problems with Maryland Family Homes. Charleen Ritter, who moved into a new home on the block in September, said the company has been responsive to her requests for repairs.

"Everything I've needed done has been done," she said. "The things [March] has promised take time, and I know it will get done. I guess I'm a little more patient."

Pub Date: 7/05/96

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