Developer faulted over Clarksburg, Md., revisions

By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 11, 2009

Montgomery County's planning agency is threatening to fine Clarksburg developer Newland Communities for what it says are at least 400 unauthorized changes in new plans for the still-unbuilt town center, more than four years after residents alerted the county to dozens of violations at the northern Montgomery community.

Rollin Stanley, the county planning director, said Thursday that Newland appears to be stalling efforts to complete Clarksburg Town Center and should explain to the Planning Board next month why its latest proposal for the 270-acre mixed-use development differs substantially from what the board required.

"The plans have been purposely altered, and I take this very seriously," Stanley said. "I think we have driven as far down the road as we can with this developer. I am sure the board will share our frustration, and I can't begin to sense the frustration of the community."

Douglas C. Delano, a Newland vice president, said the company was reviewing the planning agency's concerns and intends to respond quickly. "This is an extremely sensitive project for everyone," he said. "We are almost to the finish line." He said the prospect of fines "would not move the project forward."

The company could face a fine of up to $500 a day. Robert Kronenberg, the planner who has been managing the revisions, provided 31 pages of alleged discrepancies, telling Newland that "it appears that you have simply chosen to modify the plans from what was submitted and approved" and did so to "impede progress."

Among the changes cited were the addition of duplex houses in areas where none were planned; failure to note that the company was supposed to build a parking lot for a new county library; a reduction of about 14,000 square feet in the amount of planned retail space; and deletion of design elements such as brick sidewalks, bluestone paving and granite edging in some public areas.

The Clarksburg Town Center Advisory Committee, the residents group that first found problems in 2005, expressed disappointment in Newland's latest plans. President Lynn Fantle said the latest proposal from Newland is a "setback" to efforts to swiftly complete the business district.

Newland is expected to discuss the issues at a Jan. 14 Planning Board session.

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