The developer accused of building violations at Clarksburg Town Center went on the offensive yesterday against Montgomery County planning officials, saying the county knew what was being built all along and took action only to fend off critics.
Douglas C. Delano, a vice president for San Diego-based Newland Communities, said the company "is not about to plead guilty to something it didn't do."
"We only did things that were approved by the county," he said in an interview. "I don't think I have seen any community go through this retroactive implementation of the rules, nor this kind of scrutiny."
The developer had largely been silent for months as the County Council and Planning Board looked into evidence, first uncovered by a group of Clarksburg residents, that unauthorized changes were made in the 1,300-home development east of Germantown.
Last week, the Planning Board staff issued a preliminary report that said that Newland failed to provide promised tennis courts, jogging trails and pools and improperly relocated other amenities far from the heart of the village it said it wanted to create. In addition, the board has found that some homes were built taller than approved and too close to the street.
The report will be a focus of a Planning Board hearing today.
Newland hired Delano a month ago to oversee the Clarksburg development.
His comments highlighted one of the vexing issues facing the Montgomery Planning Board: If its planning staff is found to have approved changes that violated county law or zoning regulations, can the board go ahead and punish the developer?
Amy Presley, a leader of the Clarksburg Town Advisory Committee, the resident group that first raised questions about irregularities, said yesterday, "If the county told them to go out and rob a bank, would they do that?"
Nancy C. Lineman, a spokeswoman for the Planning Board, said only that the panel "will decide on the merits of the case."
Delano said the county has been guilty of poor record-keeping, which may impede the company as it tries to show who signed off on which changes. He said neither the company nor the planning office is able to locate some key documents that would clarify responsibility for changes.
He was not specific other than to say that some site plans, meeting minutes and other data are missing.
Delano also joined critics of the Planning Board who are upset with the panel for going ahead with today's hearing instead of waiting for a County Council report that will probably spotlight inefficiencies in the Department of Park and Planning. A second hearing on violation allegations is scheduled for Oct. 25.
Penalties, which could exceed $1 million, are expected to be assessed against the developer Nov. 3. The council's Office of Legislative Oversight is to release its study a week later.
"It seemed like the Planning Board was kind of rushing to get everything done by the end of this month," Delano said.
Presley said she also wants a delay. The Planning Board has not given the community group enough time to prepare its case, she said.
The county continues to face questions about its ability to manage and oversee its rapid growth. On July 7, the Planning Board, which had said for months that there were no problems with the Clarksburg development, ruled that 433 townhouses and a condominium apartment building are higher than allowed. It also found that 102 homes are closer to the road than permitted.
A few weeks earlier, the planner assigned to the project, Wynn Witthans, resigned after she acknowledged altering height specifications on the site plan to reconcile them to what had been built, officials said.
Her boss, Park and Planning Department Director Charles Loehr, announced that he would retire by the end of this month. The state prosecutor is investigating the problems, as is the county.
The Planning Board hearing is open to the public and will begin at 9:30 a.m. at its office at 8787 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring.