Local developers and builders aren't really jubilant about Maryland's recent removal of a ban on new sewer connections in the Anacostia drainage area. Development plans for many in that swath of Montgomery and Prince George's country had been delayed by the eight-year moratorium.
Developer Ralph J. Duffie, who has built hundreds of moderate-rent apartments in the affected White Oak area along Rte.29, said that his firm now will have to rethink its plans. Duffie has undeveloped ground on which approximately 500 high-rise and 400 garden apartments could be built.
"We will have to do something to retain our priority for sewer taps," he said, "but now it could be town houses built for sale rather than apartments." The ground could also be sold to another developer.
Duffie said that the cost of building private market rental apartments has doubled in the intervening years to almost $30,000 a unit. He said it is unlikely that apartment-hunters would be willing to pay the high rents that would have to be charged to make a profit - in view of today's high financing costs and inflated construction prices.
Duffie said he is seeking state-backed financing to build dwelings in the White Oak area for low- to moderate-income tenants eligible for HUD rental subsidies.
Northeast of White Oak. it is now likely that town houses will be built in Calverton. a 10-year-old community of detached houses built by MCD Enterprises Inc. just east of Rte. 29.
"We have some ground that was earmarked for rental apartments." said MCD executive vice president Warren Pearce. "But residents of Calverton told us that they preferred to have town houses and supported us before the freeze was lifted."
He said a group of 200 town houses priced in the $50,000 range will probably be started next spring in the Prince George's section of Calverton.
Robert E. Brennan, a builder and former executive of the Suburban Maryland Home Builders Association, said the state could have lifted the ban earlier because the sewer capacity was available.
"Now there are major economic restraints caused by the high costs of housing," said Brennan, who is a Republican candidate for the Montgomery County Council. "How can people cope with housing costs that are still rising?"
John Brusnighan. assistant general manager of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, noted that no new sewage capacity was created for the Anacostia area but that sewage transmission problems were corrected.
He said Prince George's County has additional sewage treatment capacity as the result of new facilities and should have the potential for increased residential and commercial development. He said there is still some available capacity for Montgomery County, which sends all of its effluent to the Blue Plains treatment plant in the District.
Susan Matlick. executive vice president of the Suburban Maryland Builders Association. said that country councils in both Montgomery and Prince George's now are allocating sewer connections to requesting builders and developers.
"It is unlikely that much new rental multi-family housing will be built in either Montgomery or Prince George's, she said.
Joseph C. Rodgers an engineer who works with builders and is a member of the SMHBA sewer policy committee, said that some builders who are eligible for sewer connections for apartments may be unlikely to use them and might thus generate capacity for other projects.
"They have to pay a fee up front to insure sewer service or else lose the allocation. Then it could be granted elsewhere in Montgomery County," he added.
Lester Smith, an engineer who works on the home builder committee that reviews sewer problems in Prince George's, said that more residential and commerical devlopment could be expected in the Bladensburg. Hyattsville and Beltsville areas east of Rte. 29 because "the residential market has been strong, even in the upper ranges over $80,000."
Prince George's County has been encouraging the construction of single-family houses, along with industrial growth, and has been downplaying apartment construction.
Meanwhite, it is likely that a new treatment facility - financed by 35 developers and builders - will be in service later this summer in Montgomery County. The $9-million Rock Creek advanced wastewater treatment plant is nearly completed and ready for testing.
Located near Rockville, the plant will be able to treat 3 million gallons of sewage daily, according to Larry Cartanao, an executive of a building firm who has been on leave to administer construction of the plant.
"We hope to begin testing the new facility in July and turn it over to the WSSC for operation before the end of the summer," he said. Builders supported this project in order to insure additional sewage treatment capacity service for projects they wanted to build.
It will probably serve nearly 7,000 residential sewer hook-ups and 2.6 million square feet of industrial and commercial use, Cartano said.
Last year Rossmoor, an adult community near Norbeck, completed its own $3.6-million treatment plant in order to obtain Montgomery County approval to build more dwellings. The 900-acre community, started in the mid-1960s, has felt the effects of the general sewage service moratorium imposed in the early 1970s.
Montgomery County has been stymied by the federal government in an attempt to build an up-county sewage treatment plant near Dickerson. Plans for the plant, which would require costly, up-hill pumping, were rejected by the Environmental Protection Agency.
County executive James Gleason has maintained that Montgomery needs its own plant to insure capacity for residential and commercial growth without being totally dependent on the Blue Plains facility and D.C. government approval.
In the period when both residential and commercial development were curtailed in suburban Maryland by the sewer moratorium, some area builders and developers moved their operations across the Potomac to Northern Virginia.
Now much of the area's new residential development is in Fairfax County. Montgomery's residential construction pace has slowed from 10,445 units in 1967 to 2,032 units in 1976 and 2,800 last year.
Now, with the lifting of the sewer ban and the creation of new sewer capacity, it is possible that the next few years may see a revival of residential construction in Prince George's County. In particular, this revival may take place in the Largo area, where the Northampton Corp. plans to build large, single-family houses around a golf course. That area near the Capital Centre will also be the focus of new commercial development.
Earlier this week an impasse resulted among area jurisdictions over the disposal of the mounting amount of sludge resulting from sewage treatment at the Blue Plant. As a result, the jurisdictions were warned by the Environmental Portection Agency that failure to agree on sludge disposal would risk a federally imposed sewer mortatorium that could dampen the area-wide construction boom.