It was the day, John Anthony thought, that all his patience and forbearance with the Levitt Housing Corp. would finally be repaid. He thought he was finally going to move into his $66,000 town house in Levitt's Woodlake development in Fairfax County after more than six months of disputes and delays.
And so, when Anthony realized yesterday morning that Levitt's delivery once again would be delayed by construction defects and Lewitt's disputes with contractors, he decided that, once again, he would have to consult his lawyer.
"The floor in the recreation room is bickling and the plumbing is leaking in several places, and they still haven't fixed it," he said. And now, Anthony (who asked that a fictional last name be used) had discovered that a lien had been placed on his town house by the Buildex Corp., the seventh general carpentry contractor to leave the 70-unit town house development after a dispute with Levitt.
"I guess that means that I'll end up having to wait a few more weeks," Anthony said."But I've been patient for a long, long time."
Anthony is just one of dozens of potential homeowners who have waited as much as a year for their homes in Woodlake, which, Levitt officials concede, has become one of the most troubled-filled development sites in the Washington area.
What makes Woodlake's problems particularly embarrassing for Levitt officials is that they represent the second time the Connecticut-based firm has run into construction trouble in the Washington area during the last year. Last October, Levitt agreed to give up its building license in Prince George's County after county inspectors turned up hundreds of code violations in the 120-home Northview development near Bowie.
Not only have long delays in the deliveries of the town houses forced Levitt to release some Woodlake buyers from their contracts, but construction defects, failures and mismanagement have led the firm to replace its entire senior field management staff in Northern Virginia, Levitt Corp. president Edward P. Eichler said yesterday.
According to contractors who have worked at Woodlake, townhouses have been built with leaking basements, improperly supported walls and floor trusses that were laid upside-down, and long delays in the delivery of materials have caused large cost overruns.
Mismanagement at the Woodlake site reached the point last summer, subcontractor Charles Spring said, that brick walls in several town houses had to be torn down and rebuilt to include chimmeys that had been left out of the original plans.
Now, with most of the town houses still incomplete, Buildex Corp. has attached liens (claims for the payment of debts) to nine of the town houses and plans to file liens on more than 40 more in the next week, totaling almost $80,000. Until Levitt can clear the town houses of liens-which result from Buildex's contention that Levitt has failed to pay for carepentry work according to contract-none of its customers can move in.
"We have a standard procedure when liens are attached to our prop erty," said Levitt president Eichler yesterday. "We'll bring in a bonding company to assure Buildex that it will be paid, and the liens will be taken off. No one will be delayed more than a few days by this."
Eichler admitted that Levitt's time estimates at Woodlake have not been reliable in the past.
"There have been considerable delays on developments throughout the Washington area," Eichler said, "but the Woodlake project has had longer delays than has been usual. Some of it is generic to the industry, but some is due to particular internal problems of our own."
"Some of the tales are true," said Eichler of charges of faulty construction by contractors. "There have been cases of changes in construction, again due to management problems."
In an effort to bail out the Woodlake development, Eichler said, top Levitt officials had been sent to Virginia from around the country to replace both job and management staff. Buyers of the town houses, he said, had been allowed to cancel their contracts or had received "other compensations."
In addition, Eichler said, "higher paid and higher skilled" carpenters from other Levitt operations had been flown to Woodlake to take over lagging construction work.
Buildex, Eichler said, had been asked to leave the Woodlake site because the carpentry work it had done failed to meet Levitt's quality standards.
But both Spring, whose Spring Construction Co. subcontracted for Buildex, and Buildex officials placed the blame for Woodlake's problems on Levitt's operations.
"It's the worst site I've ever worked on in Virginia," said Spring, who was working at Woodlake for about six months. "They had weekly meetings to improve communications between the contractors and the Levitt people, but communications completely broke down."
"It was not uncommon for us to get supplies three or even four weeks after we had told Levitt we needed them." Spring said. "And we always had to have half our men working on corrections and extras on the units."
So far, Fairfax county building inspectors have cited the Woodlake twon houses for no major violations. "They are cooperating with us," said Lefton Flotz, the supervisor of Fairfax building inspectors. "So far we haven't had anything that we haven't been able to get them to resolve to satisfy the building code." CAPTION: Picture, Town houses stand uncompleted at Lewitt Corp.'s Woodlake development in Fairfax County amid disputes. By Margaret Thomas - The Washington Post