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Developer Plans to Rebuild Houses

Help Expected From Insurance

By Amit R. Paley and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 8, 2004; Page B09

The company building the Hunters Brooke subdivision will likely reconstruct all the homes damaged in Monday's arson blazes, including those that had been sold but had not gone to closing, a company executive said yesterday.

Marshall Ames, vice president of investor relations for the Miami-based Lennar Corp., said the families that had bought homes could use insurance money to pay the construction costs.

_____Photo Gallery_____
Md. Arson: Ten homes were destroyed and 16 damaged, resulting in an estimated $10 million in destruction to the new subdivision.
Charles County Fire
_____More From The Post_____
At Site of Mass Md. Arson, Families Wait and Worry (The Washington Post, Dec 8, 2004)
No Motive Found in Charles Arsons (The Washington Post, Dec 8, 2004)
Arson Brings Battle Over Bog to Surface (The Washington Post, Dec 8, 2004)
Arson Turns A Dream Into Dread (The Washington Post, Dec 8, 2004)

"I would suspect that the houses would be rebuilt on the exact same positions," he said. "Those people still own those home sites."

Lennar, one of the country's largest home builders, is working on 30 subdivisions in the Washington area, including Hunters Brooke in Charles County, Braemer Towns in Bristow, Va., and Hagar's Crossing in Hagerstown, Md. The company, founded in 1954, builds about 32,000 homes a year and totals about $9 billion in annual sales.

Lennar purchased the Southern Maryland site from Falls Church-based Hunters Brooke LLC, which gained approval from Charles County in 1994 to build 319 homes on 191 acres near Indian Head. The developer has so far sold more than 100 plots of to Lennar, which has begun construction on a 74-home section of the project. Lennar officials said yesterday that they could not determine yesterday how many of those homes had been purchased.

"Our thoughts and actions right now are with the people whose lives have been threatened and damaged by this fire," Ames said. "Our focus is trying to help those families."

Ames and Mohamed Tobah, managing member of Hunters Brooke LLC, declined to say whether Lennar is obligated to buy the remaining plots. But Tobah said Hunters Brooke LLC is required to spend about $20 million over the next three years to build a swimming pool, a softball field, roads, a storm water management system and a sewer system.

Hunters Brooke is one of two planned subdivisions on land near the environmentally sensitive Araby Bog. In 1999, the County Planning Commission gave Washington-based White Oak LLC approval to build 184 homes on a 117-acre subdivision called Falcon Ridge. An attorney for White Oak LLC said the developer was in talks with Lennar to build the homes for the subdivision.

Engineering work began at the Falcon Ridge site this summer. County planners said they are likely to approve the remaining permits needed for the houses to be sold.

"It's pretty pro forma," said Kipling Reynolds, a senior planner for the county.

County officials said the destruction won't affect their plans to continue the rapid clip of development in this fast-growing county.

"Just because someone set a bunch of houses on fire doesn't mean we're going to stop development in Charles County," said Commissioner Al Smith (R-Waldorf).

But many local residents disagreed. Along the road that leads to Hunters Brooke, their attitudes about growth and development are displayed for all to see.

"Our rights: No Cookie Cutter Sprawl," reads a sign nailed to a tree on Route 225 near Indian Head in Southern Maryland.

"Don't Trash West County," reads another.

"Save Araby Bog," proclaims a third.

For many longtime residents of the rolling, rural landscape of forests and swamps, the growth marching south is a threat.

"This community fights the issue of growth, and sometimes they use the environment as a basis for it," said Kay O'Connor as she ate lunch with her husband, Morgan, at the bar in the Lone Star Cafe in Indian Head. "People like it the way it is. They don't want a lot of imports."

The O'Connors, a retired couple who moved from New Carrollton 25 years ago, said they came to live in a quiet area where they could buy several acres and raise horses. When they arrived, Route 210 was a two-lane road, and they could leave their doors unlocked.

"I hope it slows down completely in terms of growth," Morgan O'Connor said. "There's too much. It's too fast."

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