Those deep, muddy, yucky, unfilled holes.
Real estate developer Douglas M. Firstenberg says he hears the same excuses from contractors every spring about why construction projects in Montgomery County have not been completed.
"They tell me they're behind schedule because it's been a tough winter," said Firstenberg, a principal of Bethesda-based Stonebridge Associates Inc. "It's always a really bad, wet winter. And every year I ask them: 'How can it always be tough?' "
This spring, Firstenberg cannot argue with the tales of woe.
The Washington area had one of the worst winters on record, and in Montgomery County many commercial and residential projects are weeks, even months, behind schedule.
"It wasn't only the number of storms we had, it was the magnitude of them," Firstenberg said. "You know, if you get three inches of snow, it goes away pretty quickly and you can recover. But when you get 12 or 18 inches of snow on a construction site, where are you going to put it?"
The severe weather, then last week's rainfall, slowed dozens of projects in Montgomery County, including a 1,300-home community in Clarksburg, north of Gaithersburg.
"Last winter, we never stopped any work," said Tracy Graves, a vice president of Terrabrook Inc., a Texas-based developer that is heading the project. "This winter, the weather had a huge impact."
In Clarksburg, Terrabrook is preparing lots, complete with utilities and water and sewer lines, for companies that plan to build and sell townhouses, condominiums and single-family homes. So far, about 120 homes have been sold and occupied in the 268-acre community.
Graves said she had planned to complete about 150 lots last December, 75 this month and 75 more in July. But only 50 were sold in December and no more will be ready until July, she said.
"We can't work when, for example, you can't move dirt," Graves said. "We can't work when it's raining, snowing or there's ice. The machinery can't get around. It gets muddy. It gets mucky. The machinery gets stuck.
"Sales of the homes are great. Sales have not slowed down. We're going to do everything we can to keep our schedules. But the fact is, there are going to be delays."
Tom Zelaska, a vice president of Clark Realty Builders LLC, said a 221-unit garden apartment project on Hungerford Drive in Rockville is about two months behind schedule.
"We started in mid-August," he said. "It was late fall by the time we were trying to put the streets, building slabs and utilities in. But it really started raining a lot in October. Then we had the early snow around Thanksgiving. Then we had that President's Day storm where in the Rockville area we had 20 to 22 inches of snow. That probably cost every job site in the Washington area about two weeks. A week to dig out and another week to dry out -- or to fix what got screwed up."
Zelaska said he is spending about $65,000 a month for job-site overhead, such as insurance, supervisory wages and temporary office facilities.
"On this project we've lost about 60 calendar days," he said. "If you break that down, every day is worth a couple thousand dollars."
Builders are looking ahead, as they must.
"People planning for next year's projects are starting to say: Are we going to have a winter like last winter?" Firstenberg said with a laugh.
Not everyone is optimistic, even about the spring.
"Our real concern is, we think the spring is not going to be very great," Graves said. "We're going to have excessive rain and that's going to cause even bigger delays."
-- Bill Brubaker