Challenged by a standing-room-only crowd of Annapolis residents, Anne Arundel Medical Center officials last night stood by the company the hospital chose to redevelop its downtown site.
About 100 people jammed a room in the hospital basement to hear key players in the proposal address questions about the developers' past legal, financial and construction problems.
"None of the issues raised by the newspaper affect any of the reasons why they were chosen," said Dennis Curl, the hospital's vice president for property development.
The meeting, called by a neighborhood association, was the first time the developers or the hospital addressed the issues publicly after The Sun revealed last week the background of Madison Homes President Russell S. Rosenberger Jr. and founder Milton Schneiderman.
"I am not concerned about the beautiful pictures or the beautiful words," Anne Arundel County Council member Barbara D. Samoraczyk said after the meeting. "I am concerned about the pattern of behavior."
During the meeting, Samoraczyk, whose district includes Annapolis, exchanged heated words with Schneiderman on his role in Madison Homes. She pointed out that Virginia regulators refused to license the company with him at its helm because of unresolved problems.
Schneiderman said repeatedly that he is not an owner of the company. His wife owns 50 percent, and he has described himself as the director of the Annapolis project, known as Acton's Landing.
Some residents expressed continued support for the project and the developers, but downtown resident Doug Klakulak said, "I'm a strong believer that a leopard doesn't change its spots."
Rosenberger acknowledged that Madison Homes' credibility has been damaged.
"We have to earn back your trust, and I hope you will give us the opportunity to do that," he said.
Based in McLean, Va., Madison Homes is the managing partner of the venture selected by the hospital to redevelop the site it will vacate in the fall. Last night the developers told residents that Madison will not serve as general contractor of Acton's Landing.
The 130-residence condominium, townhouse and single-family home project will be the first major residential development in Annapolis' historic district in decades.
After the meeting last night, hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Martin L. "Chip" Doordan said the hospital is standing by Madison Homes. "I was personally re-impressed by the whole proposal," he said. "I think it's a great project, our board sees it as a great project, and I see no reason it shouldn't go forward."
The Milton Co., Madison's former development company that stopped doing business in 1992, faced three multimillion dollar lawsuits in the early 1990s by condominium owners alleging shoddy construction at Bridgeport in Laurel, The Vineyards in Silver Spring and Bentley Place in Rockville. While owners at two of the complexes settled their suits, Bentley Place owners took their case to trial. In 1994, a jury awarded them $6.7 million.
Cedar Lakes in Fairfax County, Va. - one of two condominium developments that Rosenberger and Schneiderman have marketed as Madison Homes - has had chronic water leaks. A type of mold linked in some studies to acute lung bleeding and sudden infant death syndrome grew within the walls, residents contended.
The Cedar Lakes condominium association has a $1 million lawsuit pending against the company for alleged construction defects.
Schneiderman is finalizing a bankruptcy settlement in Washington. Creditors, to whom he owes nearly $40 million from Milton Co. debts he guaranteed, will get less than a penny on the dollar.
Rosenberger surrendered his Virginia law license in 1983 amid a Virginia State Bar investigation. In an unrelated civil case, a judge ruled in 1985 that he committed fraud in an Alexandria, Va., condominium deal.