Home Archived Articles Q&A With Williamsburg Group Chairman Chip Lundy

Q&A With Williamsburg Group Chairman Chip Lundy

30
0

Chip Lundy has spent most of his career in the local homebuilding industry, but plenty of his employees, colleagues and Howard County neighbors just as often know him for his community involvement.

After being transferred to the new town of Columbia more than 45 years ago, Lundy eventually co-founded Columbia Builders in 1975, then established Williamsburg Homes and Patriot Homes in 1983 and 1991, respectively, then formed the Williamsburg Group in 1995. In 2001, Williamsburg and Patriot combined to settle more than 450 homes, attaining revenues that exceeded $140 million in the process. Patriot was purchased by Lennar Corp. in 2002; annually, Williamsburg Group builds 100 homes.

Lundy also has been very active in the community. He has served as board chair of Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) — where the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is named for his family — and Johns Hopkins Medicine; was a founder and director of The Columbia Bank; served as co-chair of the Philanthropic Giving Campaign for the Community Foundation of Howard County and on the Baltimore Industry Roundtable for the Federal Reserve Bank, and has also served on the boards of Leadership Howard County and the Howard County Economic Forum, among others.

He has also supported more than a dozen nonprofits. His honors include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Home Builders Association of Maryland, the Leadership Legacy Award from Leadership Howard County, the Good Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America and Philanthropist of the Year from the Community Foundation of Howard County.

How did you get into the homebuilding business?

After graduating from Northwestern University in 1964, I worked as a civil engineer for several years. In 1969, I earned my MBA at Pitt, then moved into homebuilding with a company in Pittsburgh because I thought it was a solid industry. I was transferred to Columbia in 1972, and I’ve been here since.

Did you think you would stay here so long?

No. I’m from Camp Hill, Pa., near Harrisburg, but my wife was from Pittsburgh; when we came here, Columbia was a new frontier. There were no cliques, and that was critical to me, because I wanted a level playing field. Had I stayed in Pennsylvania, I wouldn’t have gotten such a great opportunity.

Now, this is home, and two of our three daughters live here, too. But guess where our other daughter lives — Pittsburgh.

How many homes has your company built?

I’ve never really added them up. In 1975, Jim Greenfield, Richard Bishop and I founded Columbia Builders; I left in 1983 to start Williamsburg Homes, then founded Patriot Homes in 1991. Eleven years later, we sold Patriot to Lennar Homes. Williamsburg has worked mostly in Howard County, but in the last 10 years, we’ve expanded into Carroll, Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties. During that 30-plus year span, I estimate that we built about 5,000 homes in the five-county region.

Currently, though, we’re usually working in Howard, where we have good name recognition. We never were developers, just homebuilders. Tim Morris and Bruce Harvey call those shots now for Williamsburg, but we share the same philosophy. Do note, however, that we never went into Pennsylvania, like many developers did 10 years ago during the go-go days. We stayed in, and expanded in, this market.

Your grandson, Benjamin, was saved several years ago in what is now the Lundy Family NICU at HCGH. How did that situation transpire?

Benjamin in now 11 and has two titanium rods in his neck that replaced misformed vertebra. We’re very grateful to Dr. Tuvia Blechman, the doctor who caught the problem, who is still at HCGH; and the doctor who installed the rods, Dr. Paul Sponseller, who heads the Division of Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Ben will never be able to play linebacker for the Ravens, but he plays soccer and flag football. It’s a miracle that he’s a normal, healthy kid.

We started making contributions when we met Dr. Blechman and, over time, have granted HCGH $1 million. Our family supported the NICU in its efforts to buy some medical equipment that wasn’t in its budget. I know that there are many people around here that have been as generous as, or more generous than, we have been.

How have you found your interactions with various planning officials over the years?

Howard County is one of the best of all the counties we deal with, if not the best. And know that even in toughest times, Howard’s planning department has always been very, very good to Williamsburg Homes. That’s because we have respect and have worked with the county employees.

As an example, there was a zoning moratorium in the early 1990s. I’m a Republican and had to work with the late Buddy Roogow (who eventually ran the Maryland Lottery), a Democrat, who was the chief of staff for the incumbent county executive who was running against Chuck Ecker, who I strongly and very vocally supported. My party affiliation wasn’t a problem, but that may not have been the case in other counties.

How are you addressing the challenges of acquiring land around Howard County and elsewhere?

We can’t compete with national companies like Lennar, NV Homes and Ryland, when we buy property. But with the smaller parcels, we’re a local company that wants to buy from a local seller. We also have good relationships with several local developers. A handshake with us is a deal. We don’t have to go out of town to get approval.

Today, we have more land deals under contract than we’ve ever had, and those projects will launch within the next two years. Some of our new communities are Annapolis Townes at Neal Farm, Woodbrook in Columbia and Westland Farm Estates in Howard County.

How often have you been involved in mixed-use projects?

We’re looking to work on such projects in the future, but we don’t have signed contracts yet.

What’s your take on the Columbia Downtown Master Plan?

If [Columbia founder] Jim Rouse were here today, he would be loving this plan, but also know that he, Bob Tennenbaum and Mort Hoppenfeld (Rouse Company officials in the mid-’60s) never really had the chance to think of Downtown as we do now. The move was to suburbia at that point, and they planned accordingly.

The trend now is toward such higher-density projects. On that note, I testified before the County Council on behalf of The Howard Hughes Corp. when it wanted to get 5,500 residential units approved.

Do you feel the plan includes enough lower-cost, market price housing?

Yes. I think we have to include in our community all kinds of socio-economic levels, not just families in the upper income levels.

What’s your greatest hope for Session 2017?

I’m more of a county guy than a state guy. I think [Gov. Larry] Hogan has done a good job. There has to be a way for the two parties to unite and be more open with one another [because] nothing gets done unless people work together. And as Chuck Ecker said, many politicians look to the next election, not the next generation.

I think we are overregulated, businesswise. I’d like to see more tax credits. And we need to address the federal and state deficits. I thought that the money from the casino revenues was going to education, but now I understand that it’s been shifted to other departments.

How many nonprofits have you been involved with over the years?

Seven nonprofits, and I’ve also served on another 14 boards of various types.

How much money do you think you’ve contributed to the nonprofit sector?

My family and I are involved with Search Ministries, an Evangelical Christian ministry based in Columbia, as well as the Grace Community Church; all told, we’ve given religious organizations 10% of what I’ve earned over my career, in addition to the donations we made to other nonprofits in our community.

We’ve always felt that people who have the financial resources should give back to the community, which is why we operate the Lundy Family Foundation.

What project are you proudest of, and why?

I can’t answer that easily, but I’ll say the projects that we built in Columbia in the ’70s and ’80s — partially because, at that time, Columbia and The Rouse Co. weren’t doing well and the company could have been sold. Then Matt DeVito and his team took over and turned its fortunes around.

Have you contemplated moving elsewhere for tax reasons?

I have no interest in moving out of Howard County. My family is here and we have a place at Deep Creek Lake, so we aren’t going anywhere.

Is there anything that you haven’t done that you want to do?

No. I’m a pretty basic guy. Cathy and I have been married 53 years and we are very close to our three girls and their families, which include eight grandchildren. That’s been a blessing for us. We’ve traveled some over the years, but now we normally limit our travel [to trips] with our children and their families.

What advice would you give someone who’s new in the homebuilding business?

To hire the very best people you can find and to give them the responsibility to express and implement their ideas. I can’t emphasize that enough. I’m not personally responsible for most of what’s transpired with our companies over the years, because the people who have joined our companies figure the important stuff out, and I implement our plans.