SILVER SPRING, MD – The five-member Montgomery County Planning Board unanimously ruled that a development company along with numerous builders violated previous Board approvals by erecting hundreds of residential units too tall and some too close to streets within the Clarksburg Town Center. In the coming weeks, the Planning Board will likely impose fines on those at fault.
In 1995, the Planning Board initially approved a project plan for the Clarksburg Town Center development with maximum height limits of 45 feet and four stories for residential buildings including single-family detached homes, townhouses and condominium buildings. The same approval included a requirement of a 10-foot setback for all residential buildings.
Following the 1995 Board approval, developers submitted required plans in which they set lower building height limits of 35 feet for single-family houses and townhouses, and 45 feet for condominiums. Although more restrictive, those standards were never amended or changed – and therefore – are fully enforceable by the Planning Board.
Developer Newland Communities and builders Craftstar Homes, Inc,; NVR, Inc.; Miller & Smith; and Bozzuto Homes Inc. erected approximately 433 townhouses taller than 35 feet; built one condominium building taller than 45 feet; and constructed approximately 102 townhouses too close to residential streets which violated setback requirements.
In addition, the Board unanimously voted to allow home purchasers who already have contracts on townhouses or condominium units – built or not -- to move forward with their purchases. The Board also agreed to grandfather all existing residential buildings that exceed height or setback limits in order to remove any potential cloud of title on those units.
All Planning Board members expressed their strong desire not to hinder any person who has a home currently under contract in the town center.
The board also ruled that all unbuilt single-family and townhouse units not under purchase contract must comply with the 35 feet height requirement and the 10-foot setback requirement. Should the developers desire to change the standards, they must return to the Board for approval.
A chronology of events regarding the Clarksburg Town Center is detailed in a departmental staff report that can be read by visiting the Clarksburg Town Center page. An unincorporated community group in Clarksburg conducted extensive research on the height and setback matters and brought its findings to the Planning Board.
Based on the numerous problems that have come to light regarding development in Clarksburg, Planning Board officials announced last week they would hire an outside firm to conduct a comprehensive and independent top-to-bottom review of the agency’s development approval and enforcement process.
“There’s no doubt that we fell short,” said Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Derick Berlage. “We invite and plan to fully cooperate with a review that comprehensively scrutinizes how development plans are approved and enforced as they are built.”
Residents of the Clarksburg community raised other issues including the placement of moderately priced dwelling units and community amenity timelines. Board directed staff to take a thorough look at such issues. Those matters could be brought to the board for consideration in the coming months.
Another hearing on Clarksburg matters specifically to discuss potential sanctions and other remedies will be held on Thursday, July 28, 2005.