It has been a three and half year journey, but we finally had a groundbreaking ceremony on the Maple Hill Subdivision on March 22.

It was approximately three and a half years ago that Jim Clifford made us aware of the Jackson property on Emory Grove Road in Gaithersburg.  The Jacksons (brother and sister) had lived on the property more than 50 years, and asked Jim to represent them.   Initially, Jim shopped the property to market-rate builders, but the county would only allow 14 lots on approximately three acres.  One of the challenges is to achieve enough density to make the project financially feasible.  Jim introduced the idea to Habitat when the market-rate builders could not make the numbers work.  Then, with the encouragement of Gaithersburg City Council Member Mike Sesma, we began the process of applying for annexation of the property into the City of Gaithersburg.   It took nearly a year, but the City of Gaithersburg agreed to the annexation, and the City Planning Board agreed to the construction of 19 townhouses.

 

We have a lot of people to thank for getting us to this point.  Of course, Jim Clifford and the Clifford Debelius law firm for making us aware of this opportunity, the law firm of Lerch Early & Brewer, in particular Stuart Barr, Cindi Cohen, and Sharon Craig for pro bono legal services.  Mayor Katz, and council members for approving the annexation, the City Planning Board for their recommendations and approval of our site plan.  The City of Gaithersburg Planning & Code Staff has been very efficient and responsive in working with us.  Mind you, Habitat for Humanity does not get any breaks.  We have to comply with all local and state regulations, but it’s nice to work with the local government in a collaborative way.

Others to thank include Ken Malm, Present of Craftmark/CraftStar Homes, who donated the house plans.  Habitat will build a townhouse similar to the CraftStar unit consisting of three bedrooms, two  and a half bathrooms , and a garage on the first level.   Jay O’Brien of Creaser/O’Brien Architects helped with modifications to the front and side elevations.

 

David McKee of Benning & Associates worked with us from the beginning on land planning and the site plan, and we are thankful to Wells & Associates for providing a pro bono traffic study.

Many thanks to Jeff Welch and Rhonda McDowell of Sandy Spring Bank for providing the loan to purchase the land, and to Kathleen Mayer, OBA Bank for providing a construction loan.

And, thanks to Henry Clarke, HFH-MC board member and president of Clarke Title, LLC for providing expert legal advice and the donation of services for Habitat family settlements.

What’s Next?

We’ve been cleaning up the property since we owned it in early December, 2011.  We purchased the property “as is” and removed several dumpsters of trash and recycling material.  Thanks to Montgomery Scrap for the donation of three dumpsters for scrap to be recycled.

We’ve been working with WSSC on the location and installation of water and sewer to the property.  PEPCO came out to disconnect the electric from the existing homes, and will be relocating a utility pole that currently sits in the middle of our planned main entrance.  Once the City signs off on our final site plan, we will apply for permits to access the site and permits to build.  We also need to finalize the surety bonds for this project.

We do have a permit to demolish the existing structures on the site (they are not historical).  This action will be followed by clearing and grading the land.  Does anyone need dirt?  We have too much of it.  About 500 truck loads too much — yes, it will all have to be hauled away.

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 We hope to break ground for actual construction in July or August of this year.  Keep your fingers crossed, because we have lots of individuals, faith groups and businesses that are itching to come out and help us build these 19 townhouses.

More folks to thank!

Great photos by Jessica Notargiacomo from Paired Images Photography, and Beth Fisher and James Sangalon who are filming and editing the progress of the project.  You’ll be able to follow the progress through their webisodes on www.maplehill-mc.org

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 Thanks to Anna Jamerson, from the Starbucks in Flower Hill, for providing coffee and stuff to keep us going.

A huge thank you goes out to our first full house sponsor! The Habitat ReStore is a full house sponsor in the amount of $230,000.  Please visit our ReStore at 9100 Gaither Road in Gaithersburg, and don’t forget about them when wanting to get rid of furniture and household items.  www.restoremoco.org

Why do we work so hard for affordable housing?

A recent survey of Habitat for Humanity homeowners indicates significant increase in areas of homeowners’ self-esteem, well-being, overall family health and neighborhood pride.  The bottom line is we are trying to relocate families who are living in sub-standard conditions, and who are often cost- burdened by paying 30-50% of their household income towards rent.

Our Family Selection Committee has received more than 100 applications for the Maple Hill project.  Applicants will be selected based on the following criteria:

  • A demonstrated need for housing
  • Willing partners, including sweat equity
  • Household income of less than 60% of Area Median Income
  • Ability to pay a 30-year, zero-interest mortgage

There is so much potential for this project, and I am anticipating forging great new relationships in the community to complete this development and engage families to have a decent place to live. We’ll be sure to keep all of you posted each step of the way!