Hope found in vote delay

Taylor Center project opponents want council to reconsider plan for site

`More time' to ask questions

Some members don't have concerns about finances

Anne Arundel

July 17, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Opponents of a plan to build a $250 million office complex along the Severn River hope that County Council members will take a closer look at the redevelopment deal now that they have delayed action on the project.

The council voted 6-1 Monday to put off a vote on the package of bills for the David Taylor Research Center until Aug. 5 after one council member raised questions about the developers' financial backing.

"I am very gratified by it," said Broadneck Peninsula resident Jana Carey, a member of a committee that studied redevelopment options who later wrote a strongly worded opposition letter to County Executive Janet S. Owens.

Carey, who along with others has long voiced concern about the proposal for the former Navy base site, said yesterday that she wasn't sure why the council decided to take more time to review the three David Taylor bills, but she added, "Thank goodness they did."

Monday night's vote followed intense questioning by Council member Barbara D. Samorajczyk of Annapolis, who demanded proof that developers Annapolis Partners have the financial backing to execute the plan. Her questions came amid widespread news accounts of the financial woes of big business entities such as Enron and WorldCom.

Council Chairman Bill D. Burlison was the only official to vote against the motion.

The developers say they've been forthcoming about their financial information.

Annapolis Partners was selected by Anne Arundel County to redevelop the 46.5-acre David Taylor site. A former Navy research and design laboratory, the research center was shut down by the federal government in 1999. Only a few private businesses remain in operation there.

"What is amazing to me is that [Samorajczyk] got them to put off the vote," said Tom Rose, a member of the advisory committee and another vocal opponent.

Rose was one of a handful of residents who attended the council meeting in a last-ditch effort to highlight trouble spots in the redevelopment agreement and its sister documents, all of which require council approval for the long-delayed project to move forward. Traffic monitoring and the number of employees continue to stir debate.

And while most council members agreed it was wise to take a three-week breather between meetings to review the legislation, some said they don't share the same financial concerns raised by Samorajczyk.

"You aren't going to waste a lot of money on a project like this unless you think you have the finances you need to do it," said Councilman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr., a Democrat from Millersville.

Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle said she is confident that Annapolis Partners - a team made up of Maurice B. Tose, a wealthy Annapolis entrepreneur, and Mesirow Stein Real Estate of Chicago - will be able to raise the money necessary to build a 630,000-square-foot office park.

Cleanup of the site, which was occupied by the military for nearly a century, will cost about $18 million.

Still, Beidle said she will spend the next several weeks researching ways to make Route 648, a main road into the redevelopment site, safer for local and business traffic.

The future office complex, which could include three separate campuses, a restaurant and a hotel, could employee as many as 1,958. The David Taylor Research Center had about 1,400 employees.

"The delay will give us all a little more time to ask our questions," Beidle said yesterday. "It is a large project, and we have the time. It isn't like we had to make a decision [Monday]."

Even if the council adopts amendments to the legislation at its Aug. 5 meeting, members will have time to vote on the amended bills before they expire at the end of September.

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