Advisory committee set to vote on Taylor center deal April 25

Council members to meet with Arundel official over unresolved cost of upkeep

April 15, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

An advisory committee of residents and business leaders is close to wrapping up its final review of a redevelopment agreement that could launch a decade of demolition and construction at the former David Taylor Research Center, where engineers tested new ideas for boats and submarines for close to a century.

Members of the committee met with Anne Arundel County officials last week to discuss the final draft of the legal document, which also has been shared with developers Annapolis Partners LLC, the team that plans to build office buildings at the 46-acre site overlooking the Severn. A final vote by the committee is set for a meeting April 25. The redevelopment agreement is expected to be presented to the County Council next month.

A minority of committee members remains unconvinced that the agreement would protect the interests of those who live near the former base,

Some residents predict that traffic from the new offices will clog narrow roads and cause delays. At the county's insistence, Annapolis Partners has agreed to submit to regular traffic counts and could be denied building permits if too many vehicles travel to and from the site.

"That's the best we can do," said David A. Plymyer, deputy county attorney, at an advisory committee meeting Thursday night in Annapolis.

But Tom Rose, a committee member and Bay Head Road homeowner, said he feels "uncomfortable."

County Executive Janet S. Owens has been pushing the project since her election in 1998, envisioning it as a tax revenue jackpot. But opponents worry that the developer might divide the project into smaller parcels and sell them to buyers, meaning residents might lose their say in how the project evolves.

Now, after months of closed-door negotiations with county officials and Navy brass, a deal might be near to transfer the land from the military to Annapolis Partners, a development team made up of local business executive Maurice B. Tose and Mesirow Stein Real Estate Inc. of Chicago. County officials have said that enabling legislation to finalize the real estate deal could be introduced to the County Council next month.

But complications continue to dog the planned project.

Last week, county and Navy officials argued about who should pick up the tab for six months' worth of maintenance work completed by a Chicago firm at the base. The county has paid $440,000 to Harza Engineering Co., now doing business as Montgomery Watson Harza. Outstanding invoices total $555,000, officials said.

Despite a flurry of telephone calls, Navy officials refuse to pay more than $15,000. County officials said they had a verbal agreement with the Navy that would require the military to help maintain the site until the land is transferred.

The Navy does not agree.

"The Navy has no legal authority to provide the county reimbursement for these functions," wrote Winston C. Allen, a spokesman for Engineering Field Activity Chesapeake at the Washington Navy Yard, in a statement released last week.

Allen said the disagreement about the maintenance invoices should not interfere with the land transfer, which has been in the works for more than a year.

"Issues delaying conveyance are focused on land use and access," Allen said. "Once these issues are resolved, the county can accept or reject this property."

Council members, who had been uninformed of the growing maintenance expenses, have scheduled private meetings with William A. Badger Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., to discuss maintenance costs. Some of these meetings could take place this week.

Republican council member Cathleen M. Vitale, whose district includes the David Taylor site, said she has a lot of questions for Badger about the Economic Development Corp.'s handling of the matter.

"Why didn't they come to the council [with the invoices]? ... This is clearly money that can't be paid out of their budget," she said.

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