Vote scheduled on proposals for Bainbridge

Two development plans on table for ex-Navy site

BDC directors meet tomorrow

1,200-acre area would be industrial, residential mix

December 21, 2003|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

The long-delayed redevelopment of the former naval training center in Port Deposit is expected to take a big step toward fruition tomorrow night.

Directors of Bainbridge Development Corp. are scheduled to vote on two proposals to transform the 1,200-acre former Navy boot camp into a mixed-use industrial and residential complex that will represent one of the largest development projects in the state.

Speculation is widespread that the contract will go to a development team that just six weeks ago walked away in a huff, saying it was no longer interested in the project.

Bainbridge Development Corp., or BDC, is a quasi-public agency created by the General Assembly in 1999 to oversee development of the property, considered one of the jewel sites along the Interstate 95 corridor from New York to Washington.

During the BDC meeting Monday night, directors listened to proposals from two developers. The Manekin team, which has been working with BDC for about a year and a half on its plan for the property, and Kinsley Cos., of York, Pa., a newcomer that was at the disadvantage of having to put a plan together in a couple of weeks.

After the two presentations, BDC directors voted to return tomorrow to vote on the two plans. They also agreed not to hear from other developers. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the Technology Center at Cecil Community College.

There is speculation that the board will approve the Manekin plan.

"I think that is the aim of Monday's meeting," said Tom Coudon, one of the nine directors of the BDC. "There is no question about that. For some reason, they are pushing this thing through," he said of the five members of the board who have expressed support for the Manekin proposal.

The Manekin team includes Richard Alter, president of Manekin LLC in Columbia; Clark Turner, president of Bel Air-based Clark Turner Cos.; and John Paterakis, a commercial developer in Baltimore.

When Cynthia Rossetti, chairwoman of the BDC, canceled a Nov. 10 meeting during which directors were expected to give the Manekin group the rights to develop at least 500 acres of Bainbridge for a technology park, the company dropped all of its plans for Bainbridge. "We have completely abandoned any plans for Bainbridge," Turner said the next day.

Manekin's sudden move back into the picture can be attributed to the newest director of the BDC, Robert L. Gell, former president of Cecil Community College.

On Nov. 19, the day he was sworn in, Gell asked the board to bring back the Manekin team to present its proposal one more time. He said he needed that information to serve as a benchmark to measure the quality of any future proposals by other companies.

At the end of that meeting, as he was leaving, Gell said, "I don't think the Manekin deal is dead. Maybe we will have to eat a little crow, but this is too good a deal to walk away from."

The proposals

After the board listened to the two presentations Monday night, it was Gell who suggested that the BDC vote tomorrow on the two plans and that they not hear from any additional companies. At least two other companies, Paul Risk & Associates of Quarryville, Pa., and a New Jersey company that Rossetti identified only as Windsor, had asked to make presentations to the board.

The Manekin plan and the Kinsley proposal are similar, but Turner and Alter were able to offer more details of their plan.

Robert A. Kinsley, chairman of Kinsley Cos., said he would need another six weeks to provide more specific information. Directors of the BDC rejected a suggestion that they not vote until Kinsley could provide more information.

Kinsley proposed a mixed-use project with housing and industrial space, which he said would be an economic boost to Cecil County and enhance the lifestyle of area residents.

He proposed between 1,200 and 1,300 houses.

"The housing needs to be of the size and price range that they generate revenue equal to or in excess of the cost of services," he said, so that they are not a drain on the county's tax base.

He said 30 percent of the property would be open space, or "land that we don't touch."

Kinsley said the industrial park would use about 400 acres. He called it an important part of the project because it would create jobs and add to the county's tax base.

He advocated marketing the industrial space to a wide variety of "Mom and Pop" or mid-size companies rather than a few big companies. "If, in the future, there is a failure of one of these companies," he said, "it would not have a major economic impact on workers or the people who live in the community."

Alter and Turner presented a proposal that was significantly different from what they had proposed in the past.

Instead of 2,000 houses, the new plan calls for 1,250 on 300 acres, and they would be priced to offset the costs of county services.

The employment center would take up 400 acres and be marketed to companies paying high salaries rather than to warehouses, which take up a lot of land and offer the county limited economic return.

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