Panel members critical of plans for Taylor site

Ex-Navy site in Arundel slated for office complex

May 19, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

They may have been outvoted when an advisory committee endorsed a redevelopment agreement for the former David Taylor Research Center, but the six members who opposed the plan refuse to be silenced.

The vocal minority of the David Taylor Redevelopment Advisory Committee is preparing a report charging that the agreement, which could set off a decade of office construction on the banks of the Severn River near Annapolis, contains legal loopholes that could allow for more building and more traffic in neighboring communities than is planned.

And while they acknowledge that the County Council seems likely to adopt the agreement, the dissenting voices hope to at least raise enough questions to change a few minds. They plan to send their report to County Executive Janet S. Owens and to council members within two weeks.

"I hope it will clarify some of the issues," said Tom Rose, a resident of Bay Head and a member of the advisory committee who voted against the redevelopment agreement. "I think there has been a lot of confusion."

At least one council member said he looks forward to reading the group's report. Councilman John J. Klocko III said he would give it thoughtful consideration.

Klocko has been critical of the way the Owens administration has handled the project, and he said news reports about Owens' failure to disclose a business relationship between her husband and a member of the advisory committee was yet another cause for concern.

About three weeks ago, the David Taylor Redevelopment Advisory Committee voted 15-6 to adopt a redevelopment plan and developer's agreement for the former naval base near Annapolis. The plan calls for private developers to turn the property into a large office complex. Owens, a Democrat, has supported the plan, saying it will bring jobs and tax revenue to the county.

Annapolis Partners, a development team that consists of Maurice B. Tose, an Annapolis entrepreneur and Naval Academy alumnus, and Mesirow Stein Real Estate of Chicago, was selected by the county to redevelop the shuttered military base two years ago.

Since then, county officials have been working with the Navy to negotiate a transfer of the 46-acre site to developers, but several issues, including access to the area, which abuts an active Navy station, and subdivision of the site, which was not subject to county zoning laws as a military base, have stymied the process.

Members of the advisory committee who are opposed to the plan - most of whom live near the site - will include in their report concerns they have raised throughout the debate.

The opponents say imperfections in the legal document could give developers legal leeway to build an office complex as big as 730,000 square feet - 100,000 more than spelled out in the redevelopment agreement.

Another worry of the opponents is the number of employees who will work at the office complex - and the traffic that these workers will generate. They also are concerned about provisions in the agreement, which was written by lawyers for the county and developers, that allow for amendments to the document.

David A. Plymyer, deputy county attorney, said that the only way developers could build more than 630,000 square feet of office space at the site would be if the council amended the development agreement. The number of employees would be limited to 1,958.

Plymyer defended the committee's work and recent vote, and dismissed comments by members who chastised Owens for failing to disclose that her husband, David M. Sheehan, a Baltimore attorney, is a paid legal adviser for T. Conrad Monts, a committee member who was appointed by Owens two years ago.

Another member of the committee, Robert Burdon, president and chief executive officer of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, said that he and other members were careful to make sure that all sides of the project were debated - sometimes more than once.

"I don't think there was any bias one way or another," he said. The County Council is expected to take up the development agreement, and companion legislation, next month.

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