Seniors Angered by Conditions at Md. Housing Community

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 2, 2009

With a tennis court, a theater, a sauna and two swimming pools at their disposal, the residents of Cameron Grove, a senior housing community in Prince George's County, expected life to change when they moved into their new homes.

But they never expected this: Marian Jones is afraid that rainwater will flow into her condominium apartment and damage her belongings, like it has done before. Carolyn Thompson learned that there is no fire wall in her attic and is terrified that her building could burn down. And Glenda Lemaitre, who is living on a fixed income and whose five-year-old furnace is in constant need of repair, is spending money she doesn't have to heat her home.

The women joined about 20 other Cameron Grove residents Tuesday to tell the Prince George's County Council that they have been plagued by leaky pipes, faulty water heaters and mold since the community opened in 2000. They allege that the builder, Stavrou Associates, did shoddy work and that county inspectors should not have approved the buildings for occupancy.

"It is appalling that a county, one of the wealthiest black counties in the country, would allow a builder to perpetrate some of these atrocities on senior citizens," said Jones, 68. "They are horrific."

Steve Stavrou of Stavrou Associates did not return several calls seeking comment.

Council member Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville), who represents Cameron Grove, said that he knew that the community had some problems in the past but that he thought they had been addressed. He said no one had brought any new concerns to his attention until recently.

The residents of Cameron Grove, across Central Avenue from the Six Flags amusement park in the Upper Marlboro area, said they have been in constant contact with Dean's office. On Tuesday, with the help of People for Change, a self-described watchdog group, they made their concerns public during the council's session.

Dean suggested that the residents make a list and pass it on to their homeowners association, which could then work with the county on a response.

Officials with the county Department of Environmental Resources, which issues building and occupancy permits and responds to housing complaints, said they had not found problems at Cameron Grove, which has 735 homes, including single-family houses, duplexes and condominium apartments.

"The Department of Environmental Resources has investigated every request from the Cameron Grove community and has found that the work done by the builder has been within the parameters of the county code," Carol Terry, a department spokeswoman, said in a statement.

She said the department will continue to work with the residents to address their concerns.

Thompson, 63, sold her home in Camp Springs and moved to Cameron Grove in 2006. It was supposed to be an upscale, gated community, she said, and it "looked shiny and pretty."

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