Residents unswayed by presentation on Bainbridge plans

Development agency's meeting turns heated

April 20, 2003|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

A detailed presentation of plans by the proposed developers of the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center overlooking Port Deposit and the Susquehanna River has done little to ease the concerns of neighboring residents.

"Clock towers and water fountains are beautiful, but that's not the issue," said Bob Atkinson, who lives just outside the main gate of the military complex that closed in 1976.

"They don't seem to get it. We don't want 2,000 houses up there."

He was referring to some of the amenities planned for the $750 million upscale, mixed-use hillside community that would feature an office campus, retirement center, hotel and diversified housing.

Atkinson was one of about 65 area residents who attended a meeting of the Bainbridge Development Corp. in Port Deposit on Monday to express their opposition to the latest plan for the redevelopment of 1,200-acre Bainbridge site - the largest single development project in Cecil County's history.

The Bainbridge Development Corp. is a quasi-public agency created by the General Assembly in 1999 to oversee the development of Bainbridge.

The development team includes: Clark Turner, president of Clark Turner Cos., in Bel Air; Richard M. Alter, president of Manekin LLC, in Columbia; John Paterakis, a Baltimore bakery owner and commercial developer; and Steven P. Risk, president of Paul Risk Associates Inc., of Quarryville, Pa.

On April 7, the developers met with about 250 area residents at the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall on the outskirts of Port Deposit to lay out their plans for the former Navy boot-camp property. Their hope was to win public support for the project.

As with some previous meetings, the session Monday turned a bit hostile with insults being shouted back and forth.

Residents asked several times if the BDC was giving the land to the developers. David Tuttle asked if some BDC board members were being promised "good-paying jobs" by the developers in return for approving the housing development.

The session ended in turmoil with the former mayor of Port Deposit repeatedly shouting: "Power to the people." Others shouted: "We will be back."

Edwin W. Merryman said the plan amounted to a "massive residential project," and he encouraged the BDC to place a $25,000 impact fee on every house built on the property.

He said the property has been idle for more than 30 years and encouraged to BDC to hold out for a better plan. "Once that property is gone," he said, "it's gone forever. Be patient. Be responsible."

Harlan C. Williams said the BDC was going down the wrong road in considering so many houses for the property.

"There are places to build houses in Cecil County, but not Bainbridge."

He encouraged the BDC "to get back to reality" and look for significant industry to locate at Bainbridge and enhance the county's tax base.

He said the first step would be to establish the needed infrastructure to support development, water, sewer and electricity.

In answer to a question about giving the Bainbridge property to the developers, Harland R. Graef, chairman of the BDC, tossed his pen into the air and said: "We are not giving away the land."

He said the BDC has the authority to give the land away. "But there is no contract signed to give anything away. But I'm not saying it will not happen."

The development team's exclusive negotiating right with the BDC expires at the end of the month. BDC board members can vote to extend the agreement, award them a development contract or end their involvement in the project.

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