Center of controversy

Anne Arundel: Superstore was not part of plan when company decided to expand headquarters.

July 25, 2000

ONE OF THE county's largest businesses has good reason to be upset over the proposed Parole Town Center.

The center was planned for decades as an urban mix of stores, shops, homes and walkways. County documents describe and illustrate the plan. But after the Anne Arundel County Council rejected a bill to limit the size of retail stores, the old plan could become history.

USinternetworking Inc. liked the old plan. In fact, the 1,400-employee e-business company counted on it.

The company wanted a town center with specialty shops and restaurants across Riva Road from its corporate headquarters, and that's what it thought was coming when it expanded its headquarters there last year.

Now, in a letter to County Executive Janet S. Owens, the company suggests that it was misled.

"When we made our decision to expand in Anne Arundel County and purchase the property at 2500 Riva Road with the long-range development plan for the site, it was with the understanding that the county would proceed with the existing plans for the Parole Town Center," Jeffery L. McKnight Sr., USi's executive vice president wrote. "It appears now that our expectations will not be met."

Ms. Owens labeled the bill restricting retail store size as anti-business. But USi's letter shows that she will not be a friend to business if she changes well-thought plans a company relied on.

"Our plan should have protected them and every other business and resident in this community," said Councilwoman Barbara Samorajczyk, who sponsored the failed legislation.

Ms. Owens' administration still must approve final plans for the Parole property. She must find a solution that would create the most business-friendly, community-friendly town center possible.

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