Taylor center owners appeal $174,000 tax bill

Filing raises doubts about developers' funding for office park

February 16, 2003|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

The new owners of the former David Taylor Research Center have filed an appeal with the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation in an effort to reduce a $174,000 tax bill.

The appeal, which was submitted by Annapolis Partners of Alexandria, Va., last month, has reignited debate about the viability of the plan to redevelop the former Navy base as a riverside office park.

But county officials - some of whom have worked closely with the group, which includes Annapolis telecommunications entrepreneur Maurice B. Tose - said that they are not concerned about the assessment appeal or the status of the high-profile project.

Phone calls to Annapolis Partners corporate officers were not returned Friday.

"Some of us are wondering if they [Annapolis Partners] have the money to do anything," said David Taylor Redevelopment Advisory Committee member Libby Brady. The committee reviewed aspects of the land transfer agreement executed by Navy officials, Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, and Annapolis Partners at a ceremony in October.

Brady and other opponents have watched as the value of Tose's company stock - he is president and chief executive officer of TeleCommunication Systems Inc., an Annapolis-based telecom software firm - fell over the past two years. The company's value per share dropped from about $17 two years ago to a low of 98 cents in the past year; at Friday's market close it stood at $1.77.

The appeal process, in which applicants typically dispute the assessed value of their property in order to lower tax bills, could take roughly six weeks to complete, said William F. Smouse, county supervisor of assessments.

Annapolis Partners has been assigned a Wednesday hearing date, Smouse said, at which time the company may present an attorney or accountant to dispute the $16.8 million value assessed by the state, based on tax year 2000 values.

He said the property would be re-evaluated this year as part of a three-year assessment cycle. He said the $174,000 tax bill is due July 1, but that the development group has until Oct. 30 to pay. After that, interest accrues at a rate of 1 percent a month.

Smouse said that the David Taylor property, which is on the Severn River near Annapolis and is considered prime real estate, probably will be assigned a higher value in the next cycle.

"So far, it doesn't look pretty," he said. "Real estate values continue to escalate."

A spokeswoman for Owens said the county had no authority to forgive the tax bill and that it would be collected.

County officials are counting on Annapolis Partners to redevelop the 46-acre base, but as of Friday, company representatives had yet to file a site plan - the first step in any development project - with the county's Office of Planning and Zoning.

"We checked and nothing has come in," said Joseph W. Rutter Jr., county planning officer.

He added, however, that it could take the company as much as a year to submit its plan to the county. "I can't imagine that they would have enough work done to come and see us," Rutter said.

Land Use Officer Robert L. Walker said that Annapolis Partners met with county planning and zoning officials at the David Taylor site last month to go over the property's assets. He said company representatives told him they didn't expect to begin demolition at the site until next fall at the earliest.

"They are just now beginning to move ahead," Walker said. "They may be looking for other partners or pulling together financing."

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