Council vote on project blocked

2 members opposing office park plan offer flurry of amendments

Anne Arundel

January 04, 2001|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

Amid complaints of a filibuster, a minority of the County Council has blocked a vote on legislation that would clear the way for a developer to turn the former David Taylor Research Center near Annapolis into a high-tech office park.

Twenty-seven amendments were offered Tuesday night by two council members critical of the developer's proposal, and 10 had been acted on - a defeat in every case - by the midnight voting deadline.

That means the remaining 17 amendments, along with the two bills, cannot be voted on until the Jan. 16 council meeting.

The amendments' sponsors, Democrat Barbara D. Samorajczyk of Annapolis and Republican Cathleen M. Vitale of Severna Park, said they were raising legitimate issues, such as who could use ball fields at the property and how a day-care center would be designed.

"This is not a filibuster, merely an attempt to understand this legislation," Samorajczyk said. She said she asked few questions at last month's public hearing because more than 60 members of the public spoke.

Some other council members and County Executive Janet S. Owens said the numerous amendments were intended to delay action on the bills until they expire Feb. 23. The first vote on an amendment came after 2 1/2 hours of questions, mostly from Vitale and Samorajczyk.

"They're trying to kill the project," Owens said outside the council chamber.

Yesterday, she had William A. Badger Jr., head of Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., drive home her point. "In her view," he said, "this was a disingenuous attempt to filibuster the David Taylor legislative package - to kill it."

The council will meet three more times before the bills automatically die. One bill would make a zoning change; the other would exempt the property from the Chesapeake Bay critical-area law, which is meant to protect the bay by restricting development in environmentally sensitive areas.

Separate from the legislative deadline, Badger said, the Navy has been eager to transfer the 46-acre site to the county. The county, in turn, would give it to Annapolis Partners, a developer team that plans to invest $250 million to build 730,000 square feet of office space and an inn on the Severn River.

The Navy no longer is paying the $140,000 monthly upkeep costs for David Taylor, leaving the county to pick up the tab until the transfer, he said.

Badger said no one knows when the Navy will transfer the land. And Ron K. McDonald of Annapolis Partners said that even if the council had passed the bills Tuesday, the transfer still could have taken until March.

The Navy wants to unload the property "as expediently as the process will allow," said Shirley Copeland of the Navy's Engineering Field Activity Chesapeake command.

Owens, who chose Annapolis Partners in May to develop the site, has hailed the plan. Over 10 years, it would create nearly 2,000 jobs and $3.5 million in tax revenue at no cost to the county. It would also clean up a property that needs $18 million worth of improvements to roads and sewers, among other things.

Vitale and Samorajczyk, joined by Republican Councilman John J. Klocko III of Crofton, have concerns. They praise the concept but say the proposal goes far beyond a reuse committee's recommendation. The main concern is that traffic would swamp neighborhood streets.

The other four members of the seven-member council, all Democrats, have been largely in favor of the proposal. As a result, Vitale and other opponents lack the votes to pass amendments, but supporters can't end debate on those amendments because that takes five votes.

The early stages of Tuesday's council meeting foreshadowed a long night. As administration officials said they had never seen anything like it, Samorajczyk and Vitale - with input from Klocko - peppered the county staff with remarks about day care rules and ball fields.

"We're talking about kids, little kids," Vitale said. County staff members said the pending legislation would not require the developers to follow the county's day care regulations but that they would be bound by state standards.

Outside the chamber, Annapolis Partners' McDonald said, "We'd probably have one of the nicest child care facilities, and they know that."

In the end, the day care amendment was held over to Jan. 16. The ball field amendment, which Samorajczyk said would limit users of the fields to avoid large crowds, was defeated 4-3.

"People are filibustering," Bola Ajayi said with a weary smile.

The Mulberry Hill resident, who lives near the site and supports the project, said, "Sooner or later, common sense will prevail. The facility will be built."

Steve Carr, a Ferry Farms resident who heads an advisory committee on reusing David Taylor, sent council members an e-mail yesterday saying those who voted against the amendments should be "ashamed."

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