Smart bargaining on Key

Columbia's challenge: Hard bargaining on annexation the Key property makes good bet better.

September 27, 2000

THE ROUSE CO. will probably have to give a little more to persuade the Columbia Council to support annexation of the 665-acre Key property in North Laurel.

Columbia's parent corporation continues its effort to win the votes it needs. The council meets on the subject again Thursday.

Under "sweeteners" already added to the mix, Rouse would give the Columbia Association a $2.29-million, interest-free loan needed to construct recreational amenities.

The company's proposal also reduced the number of such amenities further lowering the cost -- and ostensibly -- raising the estimated revenue return.

That benefit resides in calculations of how upfront and ongoing expenditures made by the association would balance against receipts from the new commercial and residential construction in the project. The least optimistic forecast would give Columbia a net boost of $4.2 million over 20 years, up from $2.7 million.

It is altogether fitting that the council press hard for the best available deal.

That will reduce the clamor from those who say the council does not have an arm's length relationship with Rouse.

In recent negotiations, the council has suggested a number of other concessions it would like to see from Rouse.

As it continues to bargain, the King's Contrivance Village Board voted 4-1 last week to back annexation. The Rouse interests may not be out of the negotiating woods yet, however.

Council members whose votes are needed for approval remain appropriately silent to see if the deal improves further.

The council's stewardship demands a careful, independent scrutiny of the numbers. Its evolution from a rag-tag assembly to one of demonstrable professionalism demands it.

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