Officials of the Connecticut-based Levitt and Sons, Inc., have agreed to transfer company workers from Chicago and New York projects to the Northview Estates development in Bowie beginning this week to correct more than 100 major building code violations in Northview homes, Prince George's County officials said.
In a meeting last week with County Executive Winfield Kelly Jr. and county building inspectors, Henry Benach, chairman of the Starrett Housing Corp. - Levitt's parent company - pledged that the structural violations in the Northview homes would be corrected within the next three months, according to chief county building inspector Arthur Brown.
Brown said that 20 Starrett construction workers, most of them brought to Browie from Chicago and New York, began work this week.
An agreement between Levitt and the county should end a summer of frustration for housing officials, who have tried in vain to have dozens of sagging roofs, improperly sealed foundations, cracked sidewalks and other structural faults corrected in Northview homes.
The violations apparently were not reported when the county originally inspected the homes in 1976-77.
An April reinspectiom of homes in the development, which opened in 1977, turned up more than 100 building code and warranty violations, Brown said.
The reinspections were done after about 150 Northview residents protested the conditions of their homes at a March town meeting.
Subsequently, a county building inspector who had inspected 116 homes was dismissed for allegedly failing to notice violations.
After Levitt officials failed to act on the violations by early May, Brown began issuing notices on code violations. Levitt, which does its work exclusively with subcontractors, began sending repair crews into Northview.
Work proceeded normally for a while, Brown said, then stalled during June. County officials had expected all Northview homes to meet the code by this month, but hundreds of homes still suffered from major structural faults as of last week. Brown said.
In last week's meeting, Benach and Levitt president Edward P. Eichler explained that subcontractors in the area were unwilling to work in Northview because Levitt's imminent sale of its remaining land holdings in the area meant that workers contracting with the company could expect employment for only a short time, Brown said.
Levitt's Washington lawyer, Daniel Singer, refused to comment on the Northview project. Phone calls to Eichler and Benach were not returned.
Brown said that he will received daily reports from the time work begins about the number of workers in Northview, their names and what they are doing.
Then, Brown will compile weekly progress reports on Northview for Kelly. Brown said that Kelly told the Levitt and Starett officials that if repair work did not proceed at a reasonable pace, he would initiate "whatever legal action the county's has open to it."Brown also said "documents were being prepared" for possible move by the county to revoke Levitt's building license within the next few months.
"I can't make any promises for Levitt," Brown said. "I can't assure Northview residents that the problems are going to be taken care of. But I would say that Levitt gavethe impression that they were going to make a real effort to clear this up."