Council tables Taylor plan vote

Members want two weeks to research development team's financial strength

July 16, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Concerns about the financial status of developers set to recast the David Taylor Research Center near Annapolis as a swanky business park forced Anne Arundel County Council members last night to delay a vote on approval of the redevelopment agreement.

In a 6-1 vote, the council approved a motion by council member John J. Klocko III to postpone the vote for at least two weeks so that members could seek more information on the financial strength of Annapolis Partners, a team that includes Maurice B. Tose, an Annapolis entrepreneur, and Mesirow Stein Real Estate of Chicago.

Council Chairman Bill D. Burlison voted against the motion to delay the vote.

Klocko said questions raised by council member Barbara D. Samorajczyk made him think twice about moving forward with the proposal.

Last night, Samorajczyk demanded proof that Annapolis Partners had adequate financial backing to execute the high-profile project.

"I have no idea what capability they have," she said. "We are conveying a community asset to an entity we don't know anything about."

Samorajczyk's questions - and those of other council members - were posed during a lengthy discussion of a thick packet of bills that, if adopted, could set off a flurry of demolition and construction at the former Navy base on the Severn River.

Shuttered by the Navy in 1999, the 46-acre David Taylor Research Center has been slated for redevelopment as an office campus for close to four years. However, debate over the size of the development, the number of employees, traffic concerns and arduous land transfer negotiations with the military have all worked to significantly delay the project.

The council was considering votes on the three bills, one of which includes a lengthy redevelopment agreement that was reviewed and endorsed by an advisory committee of residents and business people.

A minority of that group - the David Taylor Redevelopment Advisory Committee - has voiced strong opposition to the plan as proposed. They say it could result in traffic jams on the Broadneck peninsula, a scenic area with views of the Naval Academy and Chesapeake Bay.

Opponents wrote a letter to County Executive Janet S. Owens - who supports the $250 million redevelopment plan - at the end of last month. They received a response recently and were disappointed to learn that their concerns had been dismissed.

"I'm pretty sure we've lost this one," said Tom Rose, a member of the advisory committee and a member of the minority opposition. Rose attended the council meeting yesterday along with a large number of committee colleagues.

Also in the audience were Ronald K. McDonald and Tod Hirt, members of the Annapolis Partners team who have monitored talks with the county and the Navy.

McDonald, a senior vice president at Mesirow Stein, said that Annapolis Partners was determined to see the redevelopment project through to the end. He dismissed Samorajczyk's questions, adding that neither Mesirow Stein nor Tose had tried to hide any financial information. Tose submitted personal financial documents to the county Monday.

McDonald said that if the council were to delay a final vote on the Taylor legislation until after the November general election, Annapolis Partners would stick with the project. He said the partnership has spent "millions of dollars" in architectural, legal and engineering fees.

"From day one, we have stated that we are absolutely committed to this project," he said. "We just didn't expect that it would take this long."

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