The wrong way to redevelop Taylor Center ... The Anne...

LETTERS

January 14, 2001

The wrong way to redevelop Taylor Center ...

The Anne Arundel Group of the Sierra Club is opposed to the county's efforts -- through council bills 77-00 and 78-00 -- to change the zoning and Chesapeake Bay critical area requirements to speed redevelopment of the David Taylor Research Center ("Council vote on research park nears," Jan. 9).

This is especially unfortunate because the site can serve as a great example of how an area can be redeveloped in a manner that can attract high-tech firms while promoting the objectives of the Chesapeake Bay Program 2000 agreement and the county's Chesapeake Bay critical area and storm-water management programs.

However, enactment of the bills proposed would offer no assurance of such a positive outcome.

Bill 77-00 would amend the residential zoning to allow intense commercial development.

It would also allow more development and parking than were included in the reuse plan approved by a citizen's advisory committee and the County Council in 1998.

The advisory committee on reusing David Taylor was not asked for comments on the two bills, and many committee members, along with many citizens and representatives of community and environmental groups, testified against their passage at the Dec. 18 public hearing ("Council likely to OK plan for Navy site," Dec. 20).

Of great concern is whether the area could stand the increased traffic that this project would generate, especially given the 30-percent increase in the square footage of the development in the current proposal and the proposal for 400 more parking spaces than the number of employees we are told will be at the site.

We strongly urge the county to sit down with affected communities and organizations to determine how their concerns can be addressed.

This would be better than forcing passage of the bills over community protests and facing a lawsuit that could substantially delay the redevelopment of the site, which all agree is needed and could be quite worthwhile.

David Prosten

Annapolis

The writer is the chairperson of the Sierra Club's Anne Arundel Group.

... and how the process ran off the rails

Every person I have spoken to supports the redevelopment of the David Taylor Research Center. And, until recently, we all seemed to agree on how that redevelopment should occur.

Where did the process fail?

In March 1996, a reuse committee was established. The committee was composed of representatives from the federal, county and city governments and local business and community leaders. This group worked hard to analyze and understand the issues related to the site.

In 1998, the reuse committee approved a plan to redevelop the site. The county administration agreed with that plan.

In May 1998, the County Council adopted a resolution to give their consent to that plan. But two years later, a developer submitted a very different proposal. The county administration agreed with that proposal, too.

Now the County Council is being asked to adopt a zoning bill that is not consistent with the key elements of either the plan approved by the reuse committee or the proposal submitted by the builder.

How can this be? The stunning answer is that, after all this time and work, there really is no "plan," after all. The approved plan is not binding because the council adopted it by resolution instead of through the introduction of a bill.

While a bill is legally binding, a resolution is not. So there is no enforceable reuse plan -- only guidance to the county administration, which it can accept or reject at will.

Unfortunately, this zoning bill represents a disregard of the purpose and work of the reuse committee. That is why hundreds of citizens attended the public hearing to express their opposition to the zoning bill for the David Taylor Research Center.

If the administration wants to propose modifications to the plan approved by the reuse committee and adopted by the council, those changes should be presented to the committee for its review, analysis and comment. This may lead to a revised plan, which should be presented to the County Council for adoption. And this time the reuse plan must be adopted in a legally binding fashion.

A legally binding plan is essential to ensure the project approved is the project that is built.

A zoning bill is not the appropriate legislation to establish site-specific plans. In fact, the attempt to do so may be deemed illegal spot zoning.

And a development agreement also is not the appropriate document to contain the legal requirements of a reuse plan.

Such a document should contain the rights and obligations of the county and the developer as they relate to the transfer of title to the property.

We know what was approved by the reuse committee in 1998. We know what the developer is proposing today is very different.

But, unless the County Council adopts a legally binding plan, no one knows what might be built on the site tomorrow.

Barbara D. Samorajczyk

Annapolis

The writer is a member of the Anne Arundel County Council.

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