Ohio lab gives up on plan in Cecil

Tech park was proposed at old Port Deposit center

3,000 jobs had been predicted

Firm may go to Harford

total project's fate unclear

November 11, 2003|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Plans for a 500-acre technology park at the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center - a project promoted as generating 3,000 jobs and one that the governor called a potential economic development "home run" - have fallen through.

But developers are working to accommodate Columbus, Ohio-based Berkshire Laboratories Inc., a small and privately funded research company, in Harford County.

"We have given up on Bainbridge and Cecil County," Clark Turner, president of Clark Turner Cos., said yesterday. "We gave Berkshire a backup plan, and that is to locate them at Bulle Rock."

Bulle Rock is a 1,100-acre mixed-use development between Havre de Grace and Aberdeen. Now in the early stages, it is expected to include a hotel, conference center, homes and a high-technology center built around the Bulle Rock Golf Course, according to Turner and others involved in that project.

Turner also is part of the team working to redevelop Bainbridge - a 1,200-acre former Navy boot camp overlooking Port Deposit - and to accommodate Berkshire. Other members include Richard Alter, president of Manekin LLC in Columbia, and John Paterakis, a bakery magnate and commercial developer in Baltimore, who are also involved in Bulle Rock.

"It's a shame for Cecil County because they needed the job growth more than Harford County," Turner said. "It's a shame for Cecil County because they needed the tax base more than Harford County."

The proposed technology center was part of a mixed-use project proposed by the developers. They had not settled on a final plan, but said key elements could include homes, a retirement center, hotel and parks.

Berkshire says it has a number of patents in a research area called "spectral science." The company says its technology could be used to eliminate pollutants while making industrial machinery last longer and to eliminate the side effects of medicines.

The company had predicted that the Maryland technology center would generate 3,000 jobs. In September, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. toured the property and said the Berkshire deal had "the potential to be an absolute home run."

But some residents have questioned the company's ability to transform its technology into commercial products, saying it could be 20 years before an economic return materialized. They called for more study.

It was unclear last night how the collapse of the Berkshire deal would affect the developers' broader plan for Bainbridge. Walter Buck, a director of the quasi-public agency charged with overseeing Bainbridge, said, "It's my understanding that they're walking away from the entire project."

Negotiations with developers to bring Berkshire to Bainbridge unraveled over the weekend.

Directors of Bainbridge Development Corp. had planned to meet last night to vote on a deal setting aside land for the technology park. But Cynthia Rossetti, chairman of the BDC, canceled the meeting. She said directors needed time to meet with a lawyer from the state Department of General Services to go over the Berkshire contract and have questions answered.

Rossetti, who took over as chairwoman last month, said a number of changes were made in the agreement between the BDC and the development team in the second draft that she received a week ago.

"This is something we would have to live with for a long time," Rossetti said of the contract.

Rossetti said she wanted BDC directors to meet yesterday with the attorney from the state and vote today on the contract. But Alter was disturbed by the delay, Rosetti said. "He told me ... that he was walking and taking Berkshire with him," she said.

The BDC "kept changing the rules." Alter said.

Alter and Turner said Berkshire needed a decision yesterday because a company consultant will be making a presentation to investors Thursday.

Berkshire officials could not be reached for comment.

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