Blacks ask easing of opposition to project

Samorajczyk agrees to Taylor plan meeting

January 05, 2001|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

The race of the black developers who want to turn the former David Taylor Research Center into a high-tech office park has come into focus again.

RESPECT, a coalition of black groups, called on County Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk yesterday to ease her opposition to two zoning-related bills so that the old naval research center can be redeveloped.

"The David Taylor project is the only project I am aware of where there has been anything close to significant African-American involvement," said RESPECT chairman Clemon H. Wesley. "It appears that it's being filibustered to death."

Tuesday night, Samorajczyk, an Annapolis Democrat, and Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, a Severna Park Republican, offered 27 amendments and asked so many questions that the midnight deadline passed without a final vote on the bills. The council will take up the issue again Jan. 16.

Wesley said he focused on Samorajczyk in part because her district has the county's largest concentration of black voters. The 46-acre David Taylor site, across the Severn River from Annapolis, is in Vitale's district.

Wesley called the project's success "vital to our African-American pride and businesses."

Samorajczyk said she changed her schedule to meet with RESPECT last night. She said she represents the interests of the entire county, not just those of her district, and criticized colleagues for viewing their job "in a very narrow way."

Samorajczyk made no apologies for amendments and persistent questioning that prompted County Executive Janet S. Owens to accuse her and others of trying to kill the $250 million project. The council defeated all 10 amendments it acted on Tuesday, as four Democrats supported Owens.

"Why isn't anybody outraged the skids are greased so tight they won't let any amendment with merit make the best bill possible for the citizens of this county?" Samorajczyk said.

Annapolis Partners, the team Owens selected to take over the David Taylor site, is a joint venture of TeleCommunication Systems Inc. of Annapolis and Mesirow Stein Real Estate Inc. of Chicago.

Maurice B. Tose, TCS chairman and chief executive officer, is black, as is Ron K. McDonald, a Mesirow Stein executive spearheading the David Taylor effort. The partnership plans to build a 730,000-square-foot office park, beginning with corporate headquarters for TCS. Plans call for up to 1,958 jobs. David Taylor had a maximum of about 1,400 workers.

Vitale, Samorajczyk and other critics say the number of employees would far exceed a committee's recommendations adopted by the council in 1998 and would put too many cars on neighborhood streets.

The question of race has cropped up at least twice in recent months. At a hearing last month, several black residents spoke in favor of the proposal - unlike many other residents in attendance - as did Gerald Stansbury, president of the county chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In November, Owens told Vitale and another opponent of the plan that she had heard that complaints about the project might have had more to do with the developers' being black, a suggestion the critics vehemently denied.

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