Navy affirms Taylor deal will proceed

Owens had worried military might alter hand-over plans

`No second thoughts'

Delayed project for business park to move forward

February 18, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Responding to concerns that they might renege on an agreement made with Anne Arundel County, Navy officials have confirmed that they intend to hand over the former David Taylor Research Center property in the method that was promised, which will finally move forward the delayed conversion of the site to a high-tech business park.

Elaine McNeil, public affairs officer for Naval Facilities Engineering Command in Washington, said Friday that the property transfer is on track.

"There are no second thoughts about the process or the intent to complete this conveyance," McNeil said.

Last week, County Executive Janet S. Owens fired off a letter to Navy officials in Washington warning them that the county would not accept the property if the hand-over plans were changed.

The deal between the Navy and the county required the Navy to convey the 46.5-acre site not in one piece, but in parcels, including leases and deeds for businesses now at the facility, as the county had requested.

Owens learned of a meeting called by Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, an Eastern Shore Republican, that included Republican County Council member Cathleen M. Vitale and several top-level Navy officials.

Concerned that political foes might be concocting a plan to derail the high-profile economic redevelopment project, Owens sent her letter with the hope of striking down last-minute changes.

A response to her letter from the Navy had not arrived at the Arundel Center as of late Friday afternoon.

"We haven't heard a thing," said Jerome W. Klasmeier, the county's special projects coordinator, who spent part of Friday reviewing the purchase agreement for the site, located on the banks of the Severn River near the Naval Academy.

Copies of the purchase agreement are expected to go out by the beginning of this week to the business park's developers, Annapolis Partners, a team that includes Annapolis businessman Maurice B. Tose and Mesirow Financial of Chicago. How much developers will pay the county for the land is unclear, but in the past, asking prices have ranged from $4 million to $7 million.

County officials released copies of a detailed development agreement to an advisory committee Feb. 6. The committee, which includes residents and business leaders, has had nearly two weeks to review the document and is scheduled to convene for a question-and-answer session with county officials and legal experts at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Heritage Center on Riva Road.

Several members of the advisory committee intended to take the redevelopment agreement to their attorneys for review. Some have complained that the county's attorneys have produced legal documents that make it impossible for residents to contest the project.

"They have basically said that the only avenue of appeal is through the County Council," said Jim Martin, a member of the David Taylor Redevelopment Advisory Committee who represents the Severn River Association. "But everyone knows that Janet has her lap dogs on the County Council. They will never do anything against her."

Vitale, a Republican whose district includes the former military base, attended the Gilchrest meeting and has taken heat from Owens and her administration for it. Vitale said she felt she had to attend to get her questions answered. She has complained that she has been shut out of meetings the county has held with developers and the military on the project.

"She certainly has any right to do that and to find some avenue to draw attention to the problems that the community has raised," Martin said. "I applaud her efforts, although I don't know that they will come to anything. This is a railroad job."

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