Arundel council OKs last bill on Taylor

Vote allows land transfer from Navy to developers

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 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."

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.

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."

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 plan for the site.

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