Plans for Taylor property submitted

Developers want offices on Severn River site

Project includes 100-room inn


April 29, 2004|By Childs Walker | Childs Walker,SUN STAFF

After 18 months of public silence, developers of the David Taylor Research Center outside Annapolis have submitted their plan for transforming the former Navy site into a waterfront office complex.

The detailed plan for the $250 million development on the Severn River sticks closely to the plan county officials saw before transferring the 46-acre property to Annapolis Partners in October 2002.

The proposed complex - one of the largest and highest-profile waterfront developments in recent county history - would have 515,000 square feet of office space in two- and three-story towers, a 100-room inn, a small retail area and almost 2,000 parking spaces.

In the first phase of the project, Annapolis Partners plans to create 150,000 square feet of office space for the headquarters of Annapolis-based TeleCommunication Systems Inc. Annapolis Partners gave the plan to county officials this month.

"We're excited to be moving into this stage of the process," said Ron McDonald, project executive for Annapolis Partners.

County planners are reviewing the site plan and could submit comments to the developer as soon as this week, said planning administrator Carole Sanner. The plan will then go to the David Taylor Redevelopment Advisory Committee, a panel of residents that helped shape the proposed development and was sometimes critical of Annapolis Partners.

Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, whose district includes David Taylor and who worked with the committee, said she does not agree with some of the plan's new features.

After a cursory review of the documents, Vitale said she is most concerned with developers' plans to add a story to the proposed inn. The site is almost directly across the Severn River from downtown Annapolis.

"It's very important that the water view be kept appropriate," Vitale said.

McDonald addressed her concern in a news release on the site plan: "The inn's height will still be well below the 60-foot zoning-legislation height limit and will now more closely match the height of the office buildings to be developed on the waterfront."

The development of the David Taylor property has a contentious history.

Congress voted to close the Navy base in 1995, and by 1999 it was virtually abandoned. The county then began negotiations with the Navy to get the site transferred to a private developer.

Many local leaders, including County Executive Janet S. Owens, pushed for the Annapolis Partners proposal, citing the 1,800 jobs and $3 million in tax revenue it promised to deliver.

But some members of the advisory committee said plans for the development were rife with loopholes that could allow more building and overload the surrounding area with traffic. Despite such concerns, the County Council approved bills allowing the transfer in 2002.

When the county handed over the property at a ceremony with cake and a ribbon cutting, officials predicted that redevelopment work would begin in a few months. But progress on the site plan lagged, and in the fall Tropical Storm Isabel caused further delays.

Now that the plan is in, county officials said they'll do their part to proceed as quickly as possible.

"The county has an interest in moving this forward," Sanner said, predicting that the plan would reach the advisory committee as soon as June. She said most of her department's comments would address cosmetic issues because the broader issues surrounding the project were worked out before the land was transferred.

Once the planning department approves the site plan, construction on the three-phase project could take a decade or more, the developers have said, though McDonald said the pace could quicken if demand for the office space is strong.

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