Redevelopment plan approved for Bainbridge site

Manekin team to build 1,250 houses on 300 acres

December 23, 2003|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

A team of influential Maryland developers received preliminary approval last night to redevelop the Bainbridge Naval Training Center, a 1,200-acre facility on a hill overlooking Port Deposit that has been closed for nearly 30 years.

The approval came in a split vote by the board of the Bainbridge Development Corp., and was followed by the resignation of two of its nine members in protest of the agency's handling of the redevelopment bid.

The board's chairwoman, Cynthia Rossetti, also stepped down from her post, indicating that she may resign later from BDC - a quasi-public agency created by the General Assembly in 1999 to oversee development of the former Navy boot camp in Cecil County.

The proposal by the developers - called the Manekin team - includes 1,250 houses on 300 acres and 450 acres for an employment center. It sets aside 400 acres for open space and community use, including a library, veterans museum and cemetery, amphitheater and walking and hiking trails.

The development team - including 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 - was first awarded exclusive negotiating rights to develop the prime property along the Interstate 95 corridor between New York and Washington late last year.

The agreement expired last month when the Manekin team could not reach a final contract agreement with the BDC.

Shocking some BDC members and Cecil County officials, the team announced early last month that it had abandoned any plan to develop the property.

"We have given up on Bainbridge and Cecil County," Turner said after the BDC postponed a meeting scheduled for Nov. 10, during which the directors were expected to give the Manekin team final approval to build a technology park on 500 acres of the property.

But the door was reopened to the development team four weeks ago when Robert L. Gell, the newest board member of BDC, asked that the Manekin team be brought back to present its proposal for the property once again.

Gell, a former president of Cecil Community College, said he needed to hear the Manekin plan so that he could use it as a benchmark to measure the quality of future proposals from other developers.

At least four developers expressed interest in developing Bainbridge, including Kinsley Cos. Based in York, Kinsley is one of Pennsylvania's largest commercial developers.

Last week, BDC heard proposals from Kinsley and Manekin. At the end of the presentations, Gell made a motion for the BDC to meet last night to vote on the two proposals. But the board voted last night only on the Manekin plan - which passed by a 6-2 margin.

The board also voted not to hear from any additional companies wanting to develop the property.

The directors also passed a resolution prohibiting gambling at Bainbridge and limiting the number of residential housing units to 1,250.

Directors Walter E. Buck III and Thomas Coudon resigned.

Buck said the board's majority violated its public trust by not allowing Kinsley reasonable time to present its final development proposal and for not allowing other companies to compete for the property.

"We were ineffective as a board," Coudon said. "The majority of the board held meetings in secret without us."

The Manekin and Kinsley proposals were similar in that they offered projects including industrial and residential development.

In a move designed to address some of the strong community opposition to its previous plan, Alter said the company would pay $20,000 an acre for Bainbridge property used for housing development and $8,000 an acre for land in the employment center.

The team's previous plan called for paying $5,000 an acre for the land.

Lawrence F. Haislip, a lawyer who represents BDC, said a final contract with Manekin could be negotiated within a month.

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