Monday, November 2, 2009

what's keeping more of this from being built here?

Stone and Beam, Indeed

I've always loved the "Telluride-Inspired Townhomes" Ruppert O'Brien built in the Aspen Ridge and Albany Grove developments off Briggs Chaney Road, which are nearing completion three years after construction started. Natural materials (is that a real wooden beam over the garage door?), articulated fa├žades, and big windows give these homes a traditional, established feel, like an updated version of the Craftsman bungalows you might find in Takoma Park or the Woodsides.

Not only that, but they stand out from the brick-and-vinyl homes put up by larger builders like Ryan and NVHomes, who've built at least half-a-dozen subdivisions in East County over the past ten years. Don't get me wrong: I think neighborhoods like Ryan and NV's Cross Creek Club are fine, and I know people like them. But I wonder how well they'll retain value, and how well they'll reflect on this area. (It doesn't help my impression of them that one of their sales agents referred to this area as "Silver Springs.")

But Sean Ruppert of Ruppert O'Brien told JUTP two years ago that the planning and permitting process is so time- and cost-consuming that he'll never build in Montgomery County again:
"I understand there's more traffic congestion" in Northern Virginia, Ruppert laments, "but they're so much more business-friendly." A sales contract in Virginia or the District of Columbia, he points out, is only six pages long. In Montgomery County, it's an inch thick.

"It's such a shame because it's such a great market, and there's people who want our product," says Ruppert. "You should stay here on Sunday and see what people have been saying about the model. 'We've never seen something like this,' or 'Montgomery County deserves this.'"
It's a shame. Unique, well-built, well-designed homes like this encourage stronger communities as people stick around, confident that the built environment, at least, couldn't be found somewhere else. The same homes that Ryan and NV built at Cross Creek Club are available at subdivisions across the country, including just a few miles away in Laurel. Not to mention, of course, that the Aspen Ridge/Albany Grove homes are townhouses, which should be a rebuke to anyone who thinks large-lot single-family homes are the only way to provide more upscale housing in East County despite the high cost of land.

Albany Grove Townhouses, Sunlight

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