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Last Minute Fix for Cabin John?

Callum Murray's reputation could be ruined. The County Council found something he didn't know about the Potomac Subregion.

In the middle of deliberation over the Cabin John Center during the Tuesday, Jan. 22, PHED Committee worksession on the Potomac Master Plan, Council president Steve Silverman announced that Steven Kaufman, attorney for Carl Freeman — the owner of Cabin John Shopping Center — would be meeting with the Inverness homeowners association on Thursday, Jan. 24, to discuss new proposals for the center.

But the committee was scheduled to make its recommendations concerning the center Tuesday, Jan. 22, two days before the meeting.

The committee takes its recommendations to the full council in February and March when the Council begins its own — and final — discussions on the Master Plan, the 20-year blueprint for landuse in Potomac.

"I was surprised," said Murray, Potomac team leader with Planning Board staff. During the worksession Murray told the Council committee that the Inverness association is not the only one affected by the center.

"I'm curious if [the others] are involved with this meeting," said Murray to the committee members.

"I didn't know about [the meeting with Inverness] until it was announced by the Council president," said Gerry Levenberg, president of the Potomac Crest Homeowners Association. "We have found over the two year period that the developer is a moving target."

The committee agenda Tuesday included the height of new buildings, the number of housing units and the distance of setbacks from housing units around the center.

The committee decided to wait until Carl Freeman and Kaufman meet with Inverness before finalizing its recommendation for Council.

"Let them have meeting and see what they bring us between now and next week," said Berlage, whose committee will readdress the issue at next Monday's final PHED committee worksession on Jan. 28, at 2:30 p.m.

This concerns Levenberg, of Potomac Crest, a community of 188 homes. Levenberg testified in December before the Council on the behalf of all the surrounding homeowner associations — including Inverness, Potomac Crest, Hilltop Estates, Fox Hills and Scotland Community Association — which represents a total of 1,100 households that will be somewhat affected by the proposals.

"Our concern — if I understand the chairman correctly — is if he is satisfied that Inverness Knolls is satisfied about the number of housing units, the height, and the setback, that's all that is needed to approve their proposals," said Levenberg. "Our community doesn't matter."

Murray said that an increase in height — Kaufman has requested the center be permitted an increase from a 35-foot to 40-foot limit — could increase the bulk of the center, something other associations are concerned with.

Silverman questioned Murray and Art Holmes, Planning Board Chairman, why they should be concerned with bulk within the shopping center if the community most directly impacted agrees with any proposals Carl Freeman and Kaufman make.

Kaufman said he is meeting with Inverness because the issues he will be addressing, such as setbacks, pertain directly to Inverness. He said there was no intent to exclude anybody from such a meeting.

"We will meet with any homeowners association any time," said Kaufman.

Levenberg said he spoke with Kaufman at Tuesday's meeting, but Kaufman didn't mention the meeting with Inverness.

"I'm frankly shocked that we were not asked by the Freeman group to meet," said Levenberg. "At the outset we were opposed to any housing and we were convinced by Inverness Knolls and Callum Murray, who I think is the premier planner, that 40 residential units was a reasonable compromise."

Murray said that the Planning Board "would look at any agreement that proposed a reduction in units, height or setback," but "wouldn't contemplate any increases" agreed to in the meeting since their study of the center is complete with the current recommendations.

It is the Council, however, that will make the final decision in March, after the PHED committee makes its recommendations to the Council — and after Carl Freeman's attorney meets with Inverness.

"Sometimes, developers make last-minute agreements with associations," said Murray.

"We have spent countless hours working together with staff for two years," said Levenberg.