Board of Estimates OKs first payment for townhouse development on west side

$3.5 million deal approved over comptroller's advice

January 20, 2000|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Despite objections by Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, the Board of Estimates approved yesterday the first payment for a $3.5 million, 144-unit townhouse development on the city's west side.

The board awarded $950,259 for the development of Camden Crossing and is expected to approve the balance of the money in July.

The city picked MetroVentures/USA of Columbia about two years ago to develop the former Koppers Co. property, an 8-acre parcel near the B & O Railroad Museum. The base price for the houses will range from $110,000 to $115,000, city officials said.

Under the financing agreement, the city will advance Metro- Ventures $3.5 million, which will be repaid by homeowners in annual payments of $3,000 each. The city would not collect property taxes from homeowners for 20 years -- the same kind of deal the city gives to businesses through its PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, program.

Pratt criticized the deal, saying the city has spent $2 million preparing the property for development and practically gave the property to the developer. Appraisers valued the land at $450,000, but the city sold it for $15,000.

"I don't feel the burden of the [project's financing] should fall on the taxpayers," said Pratt, who was the only one of the five board members to vote against the deal.

The comptroller said she is investigating whether the city can give a PILOT to homeowners. "I'm not sure that is legally doable," said Pratt.

M. J. "Jay" Brodie, acting city housing commissioner and president of the Baltimore Development Corp., acknowledged that the deal means the city does not gain any money from the development for 20 years. He said the city benefits by developing a property that sat vacant for 10 years.

"The neighborhood gets a tremendous boost," Brodie said. "This is not money that simply goes out the door."

The board also approved a salary increase for Deputy Mayor Jeanne D. Hitchcock, from $108,700 to $130,000, set the salaries of the city's two deputy police commissioners at $120,000 and police colonels at $80,400, and increased the maximum salary for deputy mayors to $140,000.

A salary survey issued yesterday by the mayor's office showed that deputy mayors receive $156,000 in New York City, between $105,000 and $118,000 in Washington; and $82,215 in Pittsburgh (the lowest in the survey).

O'Malley said he plans to seek an increase in police Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel's salary from $115,000 to $137,000 at next week's meeting.

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