Arundel councilwoman wants to see shopping center plans

$250 million project raises `serious concerns'

October 07, 2001|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

In an unusual move, an Anne Arundel County Council member has cited the Maryland Public Information Act - as newspaper reporters and government watchdogs are more likely to do - to gain access to public documents regarding a long-embattled shopping center project.

Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk said Friday that she has serious concerns about the Parole Plaza renovation project near Annapolis but has had trouble getting public records on it.

A Democrat who represents the Annapolis and Parole areas, Samorajczyk said she has tried to review key files at the county's Office of Planning and Zoning regarding the $250 million project, but that her requests have been ignored.

"No one has made any attempt to give me [the information]," said Samorajczyk, who is critical of an agreement between the county and a New Jersey-based developer. "I just got fed up. I could spend my entire life going back and forth [to that office]."

Samorajczyk said that on Thursday her legislative aide faxed copies of her letter, which cites the state's open records law, to Denis Canavan, a planning and zoning officer; Robert Walker, a land-use officer; and Walter Chitwood, director of inspections and permits.

As of late Friday, Samorajczyk had yet to hear from anyone, she said.

"Technically, they could make me wait 30 days," she said, referring to the amount of time agencies have to respond to such a request for information.

But Samorajczyk will get her answer sooner rather than later, said county spokeswoman Pam Jordan. The letters were forwarded to the Office of Law, she said.

In her letter, Samorajczyk requested copies of the master redevelopment plan, architectural renderings, final development plans and a traffic study for a Wal-Mart store that will anchor the commercial, residential and retail area that will be renamed Parole Centre.

Samorajczyk said she wants to review those documents because they lay out the redevelopment plans for the moribund shopping center, which has been owned and operated by the Freedman family since 1958.

"I have serious concerns and I haven't even been able to see the final development plan," Samorajczyk said.

Samorajczyk said she understood that the development agreement would be reviewed by the County Council, but that never happened.

The councilwoman, who has a license to practice law in Virginia and Washington and who has previously worked for developers, said that it took her almost a week to review the legal document and that she has found many flaws in it.

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