Sweeteners for annexation

Columbia: The Rouse Co.'s offer of financing help makes Key property risk easier to take

September 15, 2000

When the Columbia Association won a higher credit rating from Wall Street earlier this year, the rating agencies wanted to know if the city had any prospects for growth.

In earlier conversations, these experts fretted about controls that could stifle expansion. How would Columbia meet its growing obligations?

That backdrop informs the thinking of those who want Columbia to annex the Key property, a mixed-use development in North Laurel.

Opponents of annexation worry that the needs of the existing facilities shouldn't be made secondary to those of a development that doesn't even connect geographically with Columbia. and they wonder why Columbia residents should pay for amenities a developer should provide.

These concerns cannot be dismissed out of hand.

But, perhaps, the Columbia Council will decide that Key will widen the revenue base - not draining money away but helping to provide needed additional funds to cover repair and replacement.

Earlier this week, the Rouse Co. - developer of Columbia and Key - added important inducements to its proposal. It promised more than $1 million in interest-free financing and cut back on some of the amenities it had wanted to provide for the project's 1,200 new residential properties.

Earlier estimates indicate Columbia would get between $4.2 million and $22.6 million in additional revenue from Key residents and companies over the first 20 years, Rouse estimates. Again, the doubters want proof, and they are right to demand it.

Even at the less generous figure, the risk seemed acceptable. The Columbia Council, of course, must make its own new calculations.

Surely, it knows that standing pat is risky, too.

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