Deal near on transfer of center, county says

Taylor Research facility would go to developer for business complex

November 08, 2001|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County officials announced yesterday that they have reached a tentative agreement with the Navy to transfer the former David Taylor Research Center in Annapolis to a private developer for rebirth as a $250 million executive office park.

The agreement, worked out during a daylong meeting Tuesday, follows nearly a year of intense negotiations among the county, Navy officials and Annapolis Partners, a team of investors that hopes to build a high-tech business complex on the 46.5-acre site.

"We did not encounter any obstacle that we couldn't overcome" Tuesday, said Jerome W. Klasmeier, special projects coordinator and former chief administrative officer for County Executive Janet S. Owens. "We think we have reached an agreement."

Klasmeier met with Owens yesterday to give her the news. She was so excited that she hugged him, said spokesman Matt Diehl, who also attended the meeting.

"She is happy and excited that it looks like a lot of hard work is paying off," said Diehl. "She is just happy about the whole thing."

Owens is determined to finish the complicated real estate transaction before her four-year term ends in December of next year. She said recently that she created the special projects position for Klasmeier because she wanted him to spend more time on the high-profile redevelopment project.

A Navy spokeswoman was less enthusiastic about the outcome of the meeting, a reaction that befuddled county officials.

"The Navy has had executive sessions with the county, and we are currently working on outstanding issues," said Elaine McNeil, public affairs officer for Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Washington.

Of the remaining issues, she said, "We feel it is inappropriate to discuss those points at this time."

Klasmeier conceded that important steps remain.

"Sure, we have a long way to go, but in terms of the deal points, this is a milestone," he said, adding that until the property passes to Annapolis Partners, which isn't expected until late winter or early spring, Navy officials may consider negotiations to be continuing.

Residents of the Broadneck Peninsula, which includes the former research center, said they are curious about details of the deal. Meetings of the David Taylor Redevelopment Advisory Committee, which includes residents, have been canceled recently.

"If this means that the county has finally got the land, that is a major milestone," said Ted Kluga, a member of the advisory group, which is overseeing the redevelopment. "But what are the conditions attached to that?"

Kluga, like many residents, is waiting to review an extended traffic study and a concept plan that is expected to show where buildings and parking lots could be situated. "We've been waiting for that traffic study for two or three months," he said.

David Taylor Research Center, on the shores of the Severn River near the Naval Academy, closed in 1999. In its heyday, it had nearly 1,400 employees. Most of its buildings are to be demolished after the transfer.

More recently, the site has been home to a dozen or so businesses, some of which hope to maintain offices there. However, recent terrorist threats have made it difficult for some employees to get to work. The only road into the property runs through an active naval base.

Though access to the future office complex has yet to be resolved, other issues, including indemnity for hazardous materials that might turn up at the site during demolition and construction, were addressed at the meeting, said Klasmeier. "The devil is in the details," he said, referring to a stack of legal documents that must be reviewed by all three parties before the deal becomes final.

Klasmeier, the lead on the project since January, said he expects the three parties to approve all documents by Wednesday.

County planning and zoning officials hope to receive a revised concept plan from Annapolis Partners before the middle of next week, he said. That plan could be shared with advisory committee members before next month, he said.

Klasmeier and other county staff members will meet individually with County Council members to explain the details of the transfer in the next few weeks. For the transfer to be legal, elected officials must adopt legislation.

Klasmeier said he expects the transfer bill, or bills, to be introduced before the end of the year. Public hearings will be held, he said.

Last week, Owens announced that Annapolis Partners, consisting of Mesirow Stein Real Estate Inc. of Chicago and Maurice B. Tose, chief executive officer of TeleCommunication Systems Inc. of Annapolis, had decided to scale back the project from 730,000 square feet to 630,000 square feet.

In recent months, county and Navy officials agreed to convey the property in 19 parcels, each with a specific use. They decided that the business complex would be hooked up to a sewage treatment plant at the Navy base, not to the county system.

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