Clarksburg developer found in violation

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The developer behind the botched Clarksburg Village project was found to be guilty Thursday of all five acts of noncompliance with county regulations with which he had been charged.

Though progress on the high-profile development is at a standstill, the ruling is not expected to permanently halt construction of the village.

David Flanagan, representing Elm Street Development, apologized for sloppy paperwork that would have led to thousands of homes being built in violation of county rules and offered to pay $157,500 in fines.

But Montgomery County Planning Board members soundly rejected the proffer.

Instead, they turned the tables on Flanagan, asking him to come back in three weeks with a plan to reshape Clarksburg, at which time they'll slap him with an appropriate fine.

Staff of the county’s Planning Department have recommended the firm pay $1.2 million, which would be the largest fine for zoning damages in Montgomery County history.

While Flanagan’s legal counsel, Bob Harris, called the $1.2 million "way out of line" considering a good number of the houses have yet to be built, Commission Member John Robinson practically scoffed at Flanagan’s suggestion.

"That's inadequate — $157,500 would barely cover four of the houses that were sold to customers," he said.

The acts of noncompliance are that:

» Developers had discrepanciesin the numbers and types of homes between the board's notes and their plans

» They planned to construct 36 multi-family units in a zone that did not permit that type

» 22 lots were not conformed to the proper size

» 30 buildings were planned too close to the roadway

» The right-of-way for Foreman Boulevard was shown in plans as 70 feet, while the approved width was 80.

After the five components were listed off during the hearing, Flanagan admitted responsibility, saying the "counting errors" have cost his company $1 million and its reputation.

He took offense, though, to accusations made by development review director Rose Krasnow that the mistakes were intentional and underhanded.

"Call me incompetent, but don't call me a crook," he said. "This is not a case of someone slipping in in the middle of the night and adding more units to the drawings."

Clarksburg Village is a 771-acre mixed-use development that was planned to include 2,600 units and 20,000 square feet of office space as well as school sites, greenways, trails and recreational facilities.

So far the development is in phase one of three with just more than 200 of the housing units built.

The fact that much of the actual construction is unfinished means planning board members hope Clarksburg can still be salvaged, the members say.

"This is a very important development, so we gotta get this right, we gotta get this working with the rest of Clarkburg," Miriam Wellington said.

The Impact

» Members of the county’s Planning Board say Clarksburg Village is a crucial development project that is twice the size of several other area developments, including Clarksburg Town Center and Greenway Village.

» The decision in this hearing also has far-reaching effects for how Montgomery handles its zoning and building code requirements.

» Members have talked about clarifying the terminology of housing types so as to not confuse consumers and changing the system so that developers can’t as easily submit plans for one thing and try to build something else.

dlevitz@dcexaminer.com

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