Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Orchard Pond property to get more MPDUs

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Land near the future Watkins Mill Town Center in Gaithersburg could see more affordable housing due tomoves by the county’s Housing Opportunities Commission and Gaithersburg’s mayor and city council.

The 48-acre Orchard Pond development in Gaithersburg, bordered by Clopper, Metropolitan Grove and Firstfield roads, now houses an apartment complex with 747 units owned by Lincoln Property Company of Dallas.

JPI Development Services LP of Irving, Texas, had offered to buy the property for $108 million and was planning to redevelop more than 100 units when HOC sought first refusal rights in December.

The move forced an eleventh-hour decision by the mayor and city council on Jan. 7. State law allows the county and HOC first refusal rights for rental properties, but in Gaithersburg, the county and commission need the city’s blessing.

City officials allowed the bid, but the HOC determined that the property would require too much work to renovate.

JPI is now considering adding another 10 percent Moderately Priced Dwelling Units among the remaining 600-plus units in addition to the 15 percent mandatory MPDUs city law demands.

Assistant City Manager Fred Felton said that JPI may also agree to more affordable housing if prices continue to escalate faster than the median income. If that happens, the city will ask the county not to bid, Felton said. The property’s asking price may be lowered and a new right of refusal opportunity would arise.

If the deal fell through or the price fell the county would reconsider, said Rick Nelson, Director of the county Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

First refusal rights kick in when a seller and a purchaser have signed a contract, he said. The county and HOC have 60 days to consider whether the purchase is ‘‘in the ballpark of affordability,” and make a bid, said Tedi Osias, HOC spokeswoman.