Crofton seniors suing to get fees back

`Corrupt scheme' alleged

county attorney calls accusations `ludicrous'

August 01, 2004|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Residents of a seniors community in Crofton are seeking $5 million in fees that they contend the community's developers paid to the county in exchange for permission to build age-restricted projects, fees they later got back.

A class-action lawsuit filed in Anne Arundel Circuit Court on Thursday claims that County Executive Janet S. Owens concocted a "corrupt scheme to circumvent the zoning laws" of the county.

Some developers of senior communities paid impact fees for school construction despite an exemption in the law for senior housing. Projects then were approved in places not zoned for seniors, the lawsuit claims.

The lawsuit alleges Owens had her Office of Law oversee the creation of age-restricted covenants - and then approve refunds of school impact fees to the developers. The refunds should have gone to homeowners, the suit claims.

"That's absurd," Jody Couser, spokeswoman for Owens, said of the accusation.

County Attorney Linda M. Schuett said the accusations in the lawsuit were "really so ludicrous that it's difficult to comment on." She would not discuss details of the complaint, which she is reviewing.

Schuett said that if zoning allows homes to be built in a particular area, they can be made age-restricted. The Office of Law oversees the creation of such covenants.

But John R. Greiber Jr., one of the lawyers for the residents, rejected that argument. "Why in the world would you collect impact fees - if you knew it was an age-restricted community - for schools?" he asked.

Greiber said he and attorney Phillip F. Scheibe learned while researching another impact-fee lawsuit against the county that the county gave the school impact-fee money to developers.

"The law clearly says the refunds go to whom? Current property owners," Greiber said.

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