Navy balks at dividing property for development

Secretary states position on transfer of Taylor site

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

In an apparent setback for County Executive Janet S. Owens, the Navy is signaling that it will not divide the former David Taylor Research Center into separate lots before transferring the 46.5-acre property to Anne Arundel County for conversion to a privately owned high-tech office complex.

If the Navy sticks to that position, the developer will have to complete a lengthy public process before carving the former naval research station into smaller lots. That would mean ensuring that county standards in such areas as traffic and storm-water management were met.

"It's one more set of checks and balances," said County Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, a Severna Park Republican who has raised concerns about the project's possible impact on narrow neighborhood streets.

Owens, who is trying to negotiate the transfer with the Navy, says creating lots beforehand is critical to redeveloping the former naval research facility across the Severn River from Annapolis because it would make the site more marketable.

"The county executive has said several times that is a key issue in moving forward with the transfer," Owens spokesman John A. Morris said yesterday.

Owens was not available for comment, but she has dismissed fears that the developer would "circumvent" subdivision regulations if the lots were created without having to go through the formal process. She says a developer's agreement, which the council must approve, will include more stringent rules for traffic flow.

A quick subdividing of the property is needed, she has said, to ensure that the handful of tenants on the site are on "legal" lots. Because the land has been owned by the federal government for nearly 100 years, it has been immune to county regulations.

Vitale publicized yesterday a letter from acting Navy Secretary Robert B. Pirie Jr., who said subdividing the land before its conveyance is not "supportable" under federal rules.

"The property boundaries have not, nor will they be, redefined," Pirie wrote in a letter to Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, an Eastern Shore Republican whose bay-crossing 1st District includes the Annapolis area.

Owens, a Democrat, was not aware of Pirie's letter to Gilchrest late yesterday, Morris said.

Developer Annapolis Partners plans to build 730,000 square feet of office space and a waterfront inn at the site.

The first phase of the 10-year project would include construction of a headquarters for TeleCommunication Systems Inc., now based in Annapolis.

The county would convey the land at no cost once the Navy acts, but the developer says it would spend nearly $20 million to upgrade the property.

Ron K. McDonald, project executive for Annapolis Partners, declined to comment on what he called a county-Navy issue.

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