Arundel business park blueprint scaled back to appease opposition

100,000 square feet dropped from site plan

November 04, 2001|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

The size of a high-end business park set to be built on the site of the former David Taylor Research Center in Annapolis has been scaled back considerably as part of a negotiated compromise that Anne Arundel County officials hope will calm vocal opponents.

"From the beginning, everyone has talked about the size of this facility," County Executive Janet S. Owens said Friday, referring to residents' worries that a high-tech campus could overwhelm a fragile environment and crowded roads.

Owens said that the decision to drop 100,000 square feet from building plans represents a significant accommodation by Annapolis Partners, a team of developers that includes local businessman Maurice B. Tose and Mesirow Stein Real Estate Inc. of Chicago.

She said it had nothing to do with a failing economy.

Neither Tose nor Mesirow Stein representative Ronald K. McDonald, could be reached for comment.

But while Owens and other county officials chalked up a reduction from 730,000 square feet of office and commercial space to 630,000 square feet as a win for residents, not everyone was happy.

Many residents who live near the former research center, which sits on the banks of the Severn River across from the Naval Academy, are anxious to review plans that they hope will show how many vehicles will travel through the area once the office buildings open for business.

Most residents say they fear the additional traffic will be too much for the narrow road that leads into the area to handle.

"Traffic, traffic, traffic, all roads lead to traffic," said Stephen B. Carr, a Ferry Farms resident and immediate past chairman of an advisory committee that has made recommendations to the Owens administration about reuse of the naval base.

"I'd be more interested to see how many parking spaces these people are going to have, because that's what will dictate how many cars will be coming and going," Carr said Friday.

Another resident, Nancy Wright, said that she wants to know how many people will be working in the office complex, adding that that could determine how many vehicles will use local roads.

"Are they going to cram as many people as they can in those buildings?" she asked. "I don't think the developers give a rat's patoot about residents. The key thing is to have some sort of parking cap."

Owens, who is entering the last year of a four-year term, is expected to promote the high-profile project during her re-election campaign. She said Friday she is betting that redevelopment of the small, drab, concrete compound will make up for jobs lost when the Navy shut down operations there in 1999. She also hopes it will bring in new revenue to the county.

Owens fast-tracked the project recently, moving former Chief Administrative Officer Jerome W. Klasmeier to a new consulting position with a focus on economic development projects.

After a two-month hiatus, Navy officials, county administrators and Annapolis Partners are set to meet on the project Tuesday, said Owens, who added that only a handful of issues remain on the bargaining table. When the Navy hands over the land to the county, it will then be sold to the developers.

"We are very close," she said, adding that legislation necessary to hand off the property to developers could be adopted by the County Council before the end of the year. A purchase price for the property, however, has yet to be negotiated.

Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, who represents the Broadneck peninsula, which includes the former research center, said that the change in office and commercial space is significant because it will dictate parking and traffic.

Using a formula approved by the County Council this year, Vitale said that developers would be allowed 1,968 parking spaces, or one parking space per 320 square feet. She said that number was close to what she and other residents had requested.

"I am pleased that the county executive and Annapolis Partners have finally listened to the issues we raised at this time last year," Vitale said.

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