Builder vows oversight for city project

Developer's history worries residents


March 07, 2001|By Amanda J. Crawford | Amanda J. Crawford,SUN STAFF

Presenting a plan for inspections and other safeguards, the developer chosen for the first major residential project in downtown Annapolis in decades tried last night to persuade skeptical residents that its past mistakes would not be repeated in the state capital.

Virginia-based Madison Homes told residents that its plan to ensure the quality of Acton's Landing is "totally different" from the way it did business previously.

The meeting, held by the influential Ward One Residents Association, was held in response to a Jan. 25 Sun article on the background of Madison Homes President Russell S. Rosenberger Jr. and founder Milton Schneiderman. The article included details of three multimillion-dollar lawsuits filed against their previous company by Maryland condominium owners complaining of shoddy construction.

Rosenberger presented a plan that included three levels of inspections, a third-party general contractor, subcontractor performance bonds and other safeguards that he said would make their 130-unit Acton's Landing project "totally different from the way business was done 10 years ago on the projects you have seen written about."

He said Madison's financial partner, ING Real Estate, would send its inspectors to monitor construction. In addition to inspections by ING and the city government, he said the project's architect, the Lessard Architectural Group, would provide a third level of inspections.

Several residents questioned the worth of inspections performed by Madison's partners. Madison said last night that inspection results would not be made available to the public.

"It's like getting your papers graded and not even seeing the grade. ... If you are going to inspect them, let us see the inspections," W. Minor Carter, president of Ward One association, said to applause from the audience.

A few residents commended the developers for involving the community in the evolution of plans for Acton's Landing, but others criticized Anne Arundel Medical Center for its unwavering support of Madison Homes, which is developing the 4.5-acre site the hospital will vacate in the fall.

Dennis Curl, the hospital's vice president for property development, vigorously defended the hospital's choice, calling the partnership led by Madison Homes "the best team" for the project.

"We didn't just put a sign on this building that said, `For Sale to Highest Bidder,'" Curl said. The developers "have a track record that goes back eight or nine years as Madison Homes of building quality projects."

He also said he felt even more confident in the hospital's choice since the revelation of Madison's past problems.

"The fact that you are going to closely watch them because you are concerned - I feel good about that," Curl said.

After the public meeting, the association's board withdrew a resolution opposing Madison's involvement in the redevelopment of the hospital site.

The Sun reported that:

Milton Co., Madison's former development company, which stopped doing business in 1992, faced three multimillion-dollar lawsuits in the early 1990s from condominium owners complaining of shoddy construction at Bridgeport in Laurel, The Vineyards in Silver Spring and Bentley Place in Rockville. Owners at two of the complexes settled their suits, but Bentley Place owners took their case to trial. In 1994, a jury awarded them $6.7 million.

Cedar Lakes in Fairfax County, Va. - one of two condominium developments that Rosenberger and Schneiderman have marketed as Madison Homes - has had chronic water leaks. A type of mold linked in some studies to acute lung bleeding and sudden infant death syndrome grew within the walls, residents contended. The Cedar Lakes condominium association has a $1 million lawsuit pending against the company for alleged construction defects.

Schneiderman is completing a bankruptcy settlement in Washington. Creditors, to whom he owes nearly $40 million from Milton Co. debts he guaranteed, will get less than a penny on the dollar.

Rosenberger surrendered his Virginia law license in 1983 amid a Virginia State Bar investigation. In an unrelated civil case, a judge ruled in 1985 that he had committed fraud in an Alexandria, Va., condominium deal.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.