Council OKs last bill on Taylor

Amendments resisted

vote allows transfer of site

`Relieved that this is over'

Broadneck residents lose effort to block developers

Anne Arundel

August 20, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

The Anne Arundel County Council adopted last night the final piece of legislation needed to transfer the former David Taylor Research Center to a team of developers, despite stubborn protest by a lone elected official and concerned homeowners.

After the vote - which was three years in the making - members of the Annapolis Partners development team, which plans to spend $250 million to develop the Severn River waterfront site, hugged each other and used cell phones to give friends and colleagues the good news.

The vote was 6-1, with Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk, an outspoken critic of the legal documents drawn up to control development at the site, casting the dissenting vote.

"We are just glad and relieved that this is over," said Ronald K. McDonald, a senior vice president with Mesirow Stein Real Estate of Chicago, which is working with Maurice B. Tose, president and chief executive officer of TeleCommunications Inc. of Annapolis, to recast the shuttered Navy base as a sophisticated office park.

Three office campuses and an inn are planned for the naval research center land - one of the last plots available for development along the county's much-sought waterfront.

McDonald said Annapolis Partners would meet with county officials to talk about the next step - demolition, grading and construction permits - as soon as possible. The land transfer, in which developers receive the 46-acre property from the Navy, won't take place for at least another month, he said.

Broadneck residents, who also attended the meeting, weren't as pleased about the voting outcome, but said it was what they had expected.

"They took a head-in-the-sand approach," said Jana Carey, a Ferry Farms resident and member of the David Taylor Redevelopment Advisory Committee, referring to council members who didn't question the redevelopment agreement between the county and developers. "It's disheartening. It's a real shame."

Although she did not attend the council meeting, County Executive Janet S. Owens, a lead proponent of the high-profile project, released this statement after the vote:

"This has been an extraordinarily challenging process involving hundreds of people in planning. I thank the council members that supported this stage of the project. ... This will be a tremendous job creator and revenue generator that greatly enhances our environment. It will truly be an economic showcase and environmental gem."

Amendments rejected

Before voting, the council reviewed and rejected 23 amendments proposed by Samorajczyk, a Democrat from Annapolis who has used her past experience as a development attorney to critique the agreement.

Those amendments, she said, would have tightened the language to protect Broadneck residents against overdevelopment and traffic problems.

Samorajczyk said the legal agreement includes loopholes or ambiguous language that could allow Annapolis Partners to build 850,000 square feet of office space instead of the agreed-to 630,000 square feet.

She said that the number of parking spaces also could increase, generating more traffic.

Samorajczyk has taken on the role of lead opponent recently, despite the fact that the David Taylor site lies outside her political district. She said it was her "moral duty" to carefully examine the legal agreement since "we'll have to look at it for the rest of our lives."

Area councilwoman

Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, a Republican from Severna Park who represents the Broadneck Peninsula, has taken an intense interest in the project from the beginning. Also an attorney, Vitale has reviewed the redevelopment document. She said last night that it met the standards as set out by the county's redevelopment plan for the site.

Vitale said her decision to vote in favor was not lightly made. She promised harsh retribution to anyone who purposefully lied or misstated facts in order to get the bill approved.

"You have my word, I will continue to review and monitor development of the David Taylor site," she said, reading from a statement.

Despite the supportive vote by the council, some still question whether Tose, a key member of the development team, has the resources to complete the project. Although Tose controls the majority of his high-tech company's stock, the value per share dropped from about $17 two years ago to $1.30 recently.

County's faith in Tose

County officials have never doubted Tose's ability to pay, said Jerome W. Klasmeier, special projects coordinator for the Owens administration.

Tose and his partners have said they will spend at least $250 million to clean up the 46-acre site and build three harbor-themed business campuses and an inn. Environmental cleanup and demolition at the site, which served as a Navy research and design center for close to a century until it was shut down in 1999, could cost $10 million.

"Mr. Tose has not backed away at all," said Klasmeier, who added that Tose and partners were disappointed that the development agreement legislation hadn't passed at a council meeting two weeks ago.

2 bills approved earlier

At that meeting, council members adopted two bills necessary for the land transfer and redevelopment but ran out of time to vote on the third. That meeting, one of the most acrimonious in the past year, didn't wrap up until after midnight.

Klasmeier said it baffled him that it took the council so long to review and approve the project, especially considering that Annapolis Partners will pay to clean up the site, which was not subject to local or state environmental laws because of its status as a military base.

"Here we have a site that has been ignored for 100 years, and we [were] having a hard time getting a vote?" he said. "Go figure."

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