Len­nar pur­chases un­de­vel­oped land in St. Charles

Of­fi­cials say pur­chase will end lit­i­ga­tion over school al­lo­ca­tion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By PAUL LA­GASSE pla­gasse@somd­news.com

St. Charles Com­mu­nity LLC an­nounced on Tues­day that the Len­nar Cor­po­ra­tion has pur­chased 2,400 acres of com­mer­cial, in­dus­trial and res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties in St. Charles. In­cluded in the sale is most of the re­main­ing un­de­vel­oped land in the com­mu­nity.

Ac­cord­ing to the Charles County Gov­ern­ment, the Len­nar pur­chase is one of the largest land ac­qui­si­tions in the state in re­cent years. It rep­re­sents nearly 40 per­cent of the to­tal acreage in the St. Charles planned com­mu­nity.

In ac­quir­ing the land, Len­nar also gains own­er­ship of the St. Charles Planned Unit Devel­op­ment, or PUD, the agree­ment with the county that reg­u­lates prop­erty devel­op­ment in the com­mu­nity. The St. Charles

Com­pa­nies, which sold the land and the PUD to Len­nar, will re­tain own­er­ship of more than 2,600 apart­ments in 17 St. Charles com­mu­ni­ties along with sev­eral parcels that will be de­vel­oped for multi-fam­ily, com­mer­cial and re­tail uses.

In ne­go­ti­at­ing the sale, the county asked for and re­ceived as­sur­ances from Len­nar that it would con­struct 2,500 fewer homes on the newly ac­quired prop­er­ties.

“When you look at the po­ten­tial num­ber of houses to be built un­der the old agree­ment, for Len­nar to be will­ing to work with us to re­duce that num­ber by over 2,500 we look at that as a re­ally pos­i­tive step,” said Board of County Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D). “We re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate that they see the value in it and were will­ing to work with us on that.”

The county be­lieves that the smaller num­ber of houses will help re­duce over­crowd­ing both in schools and on neigh­bor­ing roads.

In a press re­lease is­sued by the St. Charles Com­pa­nies, Ryan Houck, pres­i­dent of Len­nar’s Mary­land divi­sion, is quoted as say­ing, “As the nation’s sec­ond largest home­builder, we un­der­stand the com­mit­ment an ac­qui­si­tion like this re­quires and we will work dili­gently to al­ways best serve the in­ter­ests of the res­i­dents, county of­fi­cials and fel­low con­stituents.”

The St. Charles Com­pa­nies de­clined an in­ter­view re­quest.

The sale also brings to an end the on­go­ing lit­i­ga­tion over whether the county com­mis­sion­ers hold sole dis­cre­tion over the amount of school al­lo­ca­tions awarded to St. Charles. The St. Charles Com­pa­nies, the pre­vi­ous own­ers of the PUD, had been ap­peal­ing a Jan­uary 2015 rul­ing by Prince Ge­orge’s County Cir­cuit Judge Dwight Jack­son grant­ing the com­mis­sion­ers author­ity over the num­ber of school al­lo­ca­tions. The St. Charles Com­pa­nies ar­gued that the com­mu­nity was en­ti­tled to a min­i­mum of 300 school al­lo­ca­tions an­nu­ally.

“The goal is to reach an agree­ment on the over­all qual­ity of the project and a re­duc­tion of units over­all, and then to come up with a for­mula for the num­ber of units that the com­mis­sion­ers would agree to on a yearly ba­sis,” said County Ad­min­is­tra­tor Mark D. Mallin off.

Mur­phy said that Len­nar had be­come in­ter­ested in pur­chas­ing the un­de­vel­oped land as a way to grow its busi­ness from build­ing in­di­vid­ual homes to build­ing whole com­mu­ni­ties. “I think we made it clear to them that that’s what we were in­ter­ested in as well, and they seemed very agree­able to work with us on that,” he said.

Len­nar has been build­ing homes in Mary­land since 2004. It is one of three builders of homes in St. Charles, along with Ryan and D.R. Hor­ton.

The next steps in­clude a de­tailed re­view by the Charles County Plan­ning Com­mis­sion. Based on the com­mis­sion’s recommendations, the county com­mis­sion­ers will then hold pub­lic hear­ings on the com­mis­sion’s re­port.

Mur­phy said he is pleased with the way all par­ties in­volved in the sale have worked to­gether to en­sure an out­come that ben­e­fits not just the par­ties in­volved but also res­i­dents of St. Charles and the county.

“I think the out­come is a good in­di­ca­tion of the will­ing­ness of Charles County Gov­ern­ment and the pri­vate sec­tor to work to­gether,” Mur­phy said.


The 2,400-acre pur­chase by Len­nar of un­de­vel­oped prop­erty in St. Charles is said to be the largest real es­tate trans­ac­tion in the state dur­ing the last few years.

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