`Close look' sought for Taylor deal

County aims to show panel plan by Feb. 6

January 25, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Even as Anne Arundel County officials scramble to transfer the former David Taylor Research Center to private developers, concerns by members of a fractious advisory committee could further delay the high-profile project.

Members of the David Taylor Redevelopment Advisory Committee - which has been meeting for about five years - want at least four weeks to review an agreement that would set out a detailed redevelopment plan for the 46-acre Severn River site.

"It's a critical piece; it's the linchpin to the whole deal," said Jana Carey, a member of the committee and a leading critic of the transfer process. "When I get it, I will take a very close look at it and ... if I need to, I will go to a legal expert. We need time to get the expertise."

Redevelopment of the former Navy research compound, which closed except for a handful of businesses in 1999, has taken longer than anticipated when county officials began working with developers Annapolis Partners two years ago.

The project is at least a year behind schedule.

Early expectations were that tenants would begin moving into plush executive office suites at the Broadneck peninsula site sometime this year.

An arrangement to transfer control of the former research center to Annapolis Partners - a team that includes Maurice B. Tose, president of Annapolis-based TeleCommunication Systems Inc., and real estate giant Mesirow Financial of Chicago - is slowly coming together, with final property transfer now set for June.

"I'm optimistic that we should be able to get [copies of the draft redevelopment agreement] to committee members by Feb. 6," said Jerome W. Klasmeier, the county's special projects coordinator. Klasmeier and other county officials met with developers yesterday to talk about the agreement, he said.

A sale price for the property, which could be worth millions of dollars on the open market because of its location across the river from the Naval Academy, was not discussed, Klasmeier said.

Several years ago the county's asking price for the land was between $4 million and $7 million, he said.

Whatever money the county gets from developers could be reinvested at the site, most likely in the form of road or sewer improvements, officials said.

The binding nature of the redevelopment agreement makes it more important to committee members who want to make sure that the same demolition and construction rules will apply to future landowners should Annapolis Partners decide to sell out.

"I think county officials will give us four weeks but I'm not sure we'll get eight," said Jim Martin, a member of the advisory committee who represents the Severn River Association. Martin and other members of the committee would prefer two months to review the document before it goes to the County Council for final adoption.

"The disappointment to me is that the county expects us to resolve all of this in a few short weeks," said Martin, who made the request for time at a Wednesday meeting. "This is not an easy thing to explain in a half-hour or even an hour."

At that meeting, members received drafts of three bills that would set the property transfer in motion. The bills, one of which would allow Annapolis Partners to circumvent the county's subdivision process, could be introduced to the council as soon as next month.

Committee members debated details of the bills, including the subdivision question, for about two hours - much to the consternation of other members, one of whom left early, stating that he wanted to watch The West Wing.

"You have four or five people on the committee who bring up the same issues over and over again," said Robert Burdon, president and chief executive officer of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce, who sat through the entire meeting.

"From the business community, there are no red flags," Burdon said, referring to legislation he has reviewed so far.

"Everything that will address what will happen out there will be in that agreement," he said. "Really ... we have to wait for that document."

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