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Problems at The Greens disowned by developer


The city of Westminster, Mayor W. Benjamin Brown admits, "is in the awkward position of having given a performance bond back to a developer before he performed."

City officials didn't actually send a check to Peer Construction Co., developer of The Greens subdivision, but the effect is the same. The city's only remaining leverage to compel the Reisterstown-based development company to finish a four-page list of unfulfilled obligations is to go to court.

The list of items -- ranging from a drainage problem on Riley Court to broken sidewalks and sewer clean-outs buried under concrete -- has been in city Public Works files since July 1991.

One of the big-ticket items is the storm water management pond at Royer Road and Windsor Drive. Planning and Public Works Director Thomas B. Beyard estimates the cost of getting the pond in shape to turn over to the city at $75,000.

That tab includes raising the fence height from 4 to 6 feet, dredging sediment that entered the pond during construction and providing a 10-year maintenance bond.

Peer Construction insists the pond is not its problem. In December 1990, development company partners Nathan Scherr and Nathan Metz gave the pond to The Greens Homeowners Association, whose representatives say they didn't know it was coming and didn't want it.

"Nobody knew anything about it," said Dennis Frazier, a Johahn Drive resident who stepped down this month after three years as president of the association.

Martin B. Fleischman, general manager for Peer Construction, did not return telephone calls.

City officials agreed last year that the homeowners association, which operates on an annual budget of about $14,000, doesn't have the money to bring the pond up to city standards.

City attorney John B. Walsh wrote Peer Construction in October 1991 that the city would not approve "the assignment and transfer of the developer's obligations" to the association.

The pond and two other concerns Frazier brought to the City Council in August 1991 -- the lack of sidewalks on sections of Johahn Drive and Babylon Court and trees for Royer Road -- are no closer to resolution today than they were 10 months ago.

Public Works files show Walsh tried several times, most recently in January, to set up a meeting with Peer Construction attorney Avrohom Hoschander to discuss the pond.

Walsh refused to say Friday whether he had dropped the matter, but Hoschander said he has not heard from the city attorney in five months.

The problem with the pond and sidewalks stems from the expiration of a letter of credit from Maryland National Bank that was used as a performance bond. If the developer defaulted, the city could claim reimbursement from the bank for finishing public facilities such as streets, sidewalks and storm water management.

The letter of credit expired in March 1989. William S. Mowell, former Public Works director, confirmed that the expiration went unnoticed.

"We didn't have the personnel to monitor that," Mowell said. "One of the first things I did when I got there was that we no longer took letters of credit that expired. Now they have a rollover clause."

Beyard also claims credit for changing the policy to require automatic rollovers in letters of credit.

Fleischman maintained in letters to city officials that Peer Construction assigned the public works agreement governing installation of sidewalks to the homeowners association at the same time the pond was deeded to it. City officials refused to approve Peer's attempt to assign the agreement to the homeowners, but have not moved in to build sidewalks.

Mowell, who resigned in February, said his understanding was that Walsh planned to file suit. Walsh refused to comment except to say he was asked by the council last week to provide legal advice.

Some new homeowners are happy not to have sidewalks.

"We were kind of glad they weren't there, truthfully, because it brings the lawn down further," said Nancy Albertini, who moved into a house on Babylon Court in March.

Johahn Drive resident David Eyler said that he and his duplex neighbor are also happy not to lose part of their lawn to sidewalks.

Frazier's request for trees on Royer Road is unrelated to the public works issues. City Tree Commission Chairman Joseph Barley said the commission sketched out a concept plan for tree planting that would not interfere with utilities, but action was stalled over financing.

"We don't have the money. The city didn't have the money. The issue became one of who's going to pay for it, and that's where it ended," Barley said.

Councilman Kenneth A. Yowan suggested last week that the Greens Association pay for tree planting. But Frazier, who took heat from the community for an increase in association dues from $12 to $20 a year during his tenure as president, said he wasn't about to propose another dues increase to cover tree-planting costs.

The city government provides trees on residential streets such as Pennsylvania Avenue, Frazier said.

"I do realize that things get done," he said. "Why can't we get them done out here?"

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