Members Call for Closer Scrutiny of Delinquent Developers

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors called yesterday for tighter oversight of developers who promise public improvements as a condition of having their projects approved.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that more than 120 building projects have been left incomplete for years because developers have defaulted on commitments to provide finished roads, adequate storm sewers, and amenities such as walking or biking trails.

The county has spent $1.1 million over the past five years to complete these improvements, often referred to as bonded projects because developers must post a completion bond guaranteeing the work. In some instances -- caused by increased construction costs or damage to completed work -- the bond has not been large enough to finance the rest of the project.

At yesterday's board meeting, Vice Chairman Sharon S. Bulova (D-Braddock) asked County Executive Anthony H. Griffin to devise a plan to keep supervisors informed of projects now and potentially in default in their districts and to report regularly to the full board on progress in enforcing development agreements.

"We need a formal mechanism for this," Bulova said.

Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) said that more frequent notification is "certainly appropriate" but that he wanted to know how the county planned to deal with delinquent developers.

County officials say they have acted to reduce the volume of developer defaults. The amount of the required surety bond has been increased so that sufficient funds are available in the event of a default. The county says it will also try to reduce the number of extensions it grants to developers who do not meet deadlines.

Legislation the General Assembly passed this year will also strengthen the county's hand, officials said. Under the new law, developers who have defaulted in the past seven years can face stiffer bonding requirements, including up to 50 percent beyond estimated construction costs.

Board Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) said that he considered the default problem significant but that it needed to be placed in context.

"This is not Clarksburg," Connolly said, referring to the Montgomery County community where building irregularities and missing amenities prompted a review of development policies.

He said billions of dollars' worth of construction is completed every year in the county without incident. Although he would like to see the county spend no money finishing bonded projects, Connolly said what it does spend "is not a huge amount."

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