Developer Pat Ricker in prison, but project is aired in Upper Marlboro courtroom

March 15, 2013

Prince George’s County developer Pat Ricker may be in federal prison in a county corruption case, but one of his proposed developments got a boost Friday from the Prince George’s planning board in an Upper Marlboro courtroom.

A group of Temple Hills residents is fighting a plan that would allow Ricker to build three houses on a lot where the zoning only allows two. To do this, he won permission from the planning board in 2011 to extend the neighborhood’s dead-end street into an adjoining community. On Friday, George R.H. Johnson, a board attorney, defended that decision.

Johnson told Prince George’s Circuit Court Judge C. Philip Nichols Jr. that the board had acted properly when it approved the creation of three lots on the property. The board had issued a variance to give Ricker permission to do so.

Johnson said that to deny Ricker the right to divvy up the property into three parcels would create two less-appealing lots.

“It would deprive [Ricker] of constructing amenities like sheds and swimming polls that are allowed on other properties,” Johnson said.


Pat Ricker (Larry Morris/The Washington Post)

But the residents’ attorney, former Prince George’s County Council member Tom Dernoga, said that the board had exceeded its authority and was not allowed to issue such variances. “There needs to be a specific grant of authority” in the law for the board to issue a variance, he told Nichols. And Dernoga said he could find none.

Cynthia Rollins, lead plaintiff in the case, said she was determined to keep her Middletown Valley community intact and not allow the dead-end street to be opened up for the sake of easier access to Ricker’s proposed three-house development.

Rollins, who has lived in the community for 34 years, said she thought that Ricker and the planning agency were ignoring the wishes of the community.

“When he bought that lot, he knew what the rules were,” she said after the hearing.

Ricker, who is serving a one-year sentence for fraud, tax evasion and making false statements to the Federal Election Commission, was described by federal prosectors as a “linchpin” who helped federal authorities reel in then-County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) in a far-reaching bribery and corruption scheme. But he also was implicated in wrongdoing. Last fall, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte sentenced Ricker to 12 months and one day in prison, ordered the prominent developer to pay $250,000 in restitution and placed him on two years of supervised release once his sentence is completed.

Nichols said he would rule soon in the land-use dispute.

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