Parole land sale OK'd

Member troubled by County Council vote, criticizes chairman

July 19, 2006|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

When Anne Arundel County Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk heard testimony on a resolution that would allow the county to sell a half-acre of property in her district - land in Parole that a Crofton developer wants for a proposed office building - she was caught off-guard.

"This is news to me," she said.

The legislation had been introduced on July 5. But Samorajczyk, an Annapolis-area Democrat, asked the council to delay a final vote on the bill, saying she had yet to consider how the sale would affect growth and traffic congestion in Parole. Sensing she could not get a delay, she called on her colleagues to reject the bill.

Nevertheless, the council voted 4-2, with one abstention, to allow the county to sell off three small roads that line a tract behind the Double-T Diner on West Street, likely paving the way for developer W.F. Chesley Cos. to purchase the roads.

While accepting fault for not reviewing the measure beforehand, Samorajczyk vented her frustration at council Chairman Edward R. Reilly, a Republican who leases office space in Crofton from W.F. Chesley.

"I find it very disturbing that the county is surplusing land for the chairman's landlord ... and no one ever discussed this [resolution] with me," Samorajczyk said. "And this is right after the city [of Annapolis] approved the moratorium."

Reilly, who leases space to run his insurance business, did not participate in the discussion of the resolution and abstained from the vote, citing ethics concerns. For those reasons, he said yesterday, he could not comment on the bill or Samorajczyk's statements.

Councilman C. Edward Middlebrooks, a Severn Republican who learned of the relationship between W.F. Chesley and Reilly yesterday, blamed Samorajczyk for being unprepared to respond to the legislation and called her remark about Reilly "a cheap shot."

W.F. Chesley has preliminary plans to build an office building in the range of 100,000 square feet, said J. Russell Baker, a company representative. A subsidiary, Dee Corp., owns 18 lots on which the development would be built. The nearby interchange of Route 50 and Solomons Island Road was recently upgraded by the state.

Monday's vote gave the county permission to sell Loretta Street and portions of Holly and Cedar Avenues - totaling about half an acre - that borders Dee Corp. land.

W.F. Chesley wants to buy those roads and incorporate the land that into the development.

Anne Arundel officials appraised the county property within the past eight months at around $83,500, according to Central Services Officer Fred Schram, who said he would seek an updated appraisal. He did not know when the sale would occur.

Samorajczyk raised concerns Monday about how the sale of the land and the proposed office park could exacerbate congestion in the Parole area, given the development of the $400 million Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole and recently-started $100 million addition at Westfield Annapolis mall. She noted that the Annapolis city council had recently approved a building moratorium, and that the surplus land backs up to the city line.

"I don't think it's wise to remove any roads until we discuss this with the city [of Annapolis] and consider alternatives," she said.

Middlebrooks, Republican Ronald C. Dillon Jr., and Democrat Pamela G. Beidle all said yesterday they would have supported Samorajczyk's motion to delay a final vote out of courtesy because she represents the district.

Beidle said she joined Samorajczyk in voting against the resolution for that reason.

Samorajczyk, a frequent growth critic who steps down after two terms this fall, said yesterday that she had not reviewed the legislation because she has been pre-occupied with family.

"It was my own fault," she said.

W.F. Chesley officials said they want to discuss the proposed office building with Samorajczyk.

"I have never spoken with her," Russell said. "Our intent is to try to meet with her ... and get her feedback."

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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