May 27, 2007

LAST WEEK'S ISSUE: -- Construction of a new Oak Hill Youth Center will proceed on 40 acres near the existing center in Laurel, just as planned, according to an agreement hashed out by officials in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Though Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin has long fought to relocate the detention center to the district, the Maryland Democrat characterized the recent agreement as a partial victory because Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty is willing to cooperate with federal and state officials about the disposition of the remaining 848 acres of the property.

Cardin is reserving the right to continue fighting development of the new center. He has introduced a Senate bill to close the juvenile facility and divide the land between the National Security Agency and Anne Arundel County.

After learning this month that work was imminent on the new detention center, Cardin placed a hold on federal legislation that would allow Fenty to take over his city's school system. The schools takeover, a key initiative of the Fenty administration, requires congressional approval.

Cardin removed the hold May 14 after a handshake agreement with Eleanor Holmes Norton, the districts nonvoting delegate to Congress. Cardin said his legislative maneuver didn't affect the schools legislation, which he supports.

What do you think of Cardin's negotiations?

Plan can benefit need for housing

Sen. Benjamin Cardin should be applauded for his handling of the Oak Hill Youth Center negotiations. First, let's remember that Oak Hill has been in Anne Arundel County for a long time, and the new facility on 40 acres will be within the total site of 848 acres. The District of Columbia could have built whatever it wanted and used the entire 848 acres.

Cardin put the heat on the mayor of D.C. by holding up federal legislation that the mayor needed in exchange for cooperation on the disposition of the remaining 848 acres.

Let's remember that the political roller coaster has not stopped, but the senator's skillful legislative maneuvering may result in our county getting 400 plus-acres.

We desperately need that land for work force housing. The majority of the land needs to be master planned as a work force community for our teachers, police, fire, nurses, BRAC workers and first-time home buyers. The high cost of land is what makes housing so expensive.

Let's have builders compete, with the winner having the right to construct the homes. However, the land will stay with the county for 30 years as a soft mortgage, meaning no payments are due from the homeowner for 30 years. This means buyers only have to qualify for the cost of the house, not the land. If the home is sold prior to the 30 years, then the county gets the full price for the land out of the settlement price. This has been done before in our county on a limited scale.

We create homeowners and taxpayers on land that is vacant and not generating anything.

It's that simple. Is anyone listening?

John S. Pantelides Annapolis

The writer is a board member on the Anne Arundel County Alliance for Fair Land Use.

County needs land for homes

I am on the Board of Directors of the Anne Arundel County Association of Realtors. I chair the association's BRAC task force, and I sit on the county BRAC task force.

I am very disappointed in the agreement reached between Cardin and Fenty.

Anne Arundel County is in the process of preparing for the largest work force increase since Word War II, and Oak Hill is situated smack-dab in the center of the BRAC "hot zone." Oak Hill has the potential of being a perfect location to expand affordable housing opportunities, especially for active-duty military personnel, teachers and police officers.

Even if the land is divided between the NSA and Anne Arundel County, any future plans for affordable housing will be a hard sell to home buyers who do not want to live adjacent to D.C.'s juvenile offenders.

Anne Arundel County is going to be the heartbeat of the United States intelligence community. We need the land Oak Hill sits on to provide adequate facilities to accommodate BRAC growth and generate property tax income to support the county's infrastructure.

Stephanie Hodges Hanover

Cardin showed poor negotiating

Benjamin Cardin set out to have the Oak Hill detention center relocated to Washington, D.C. His poor negotiating skills have resulted in the center staying in Maryland, and in fact expanding.

Now, oblivious to the effect this actions will have on yet another group of youngsters, Sen. Cardin's threatening to interfere with Washington, D.C.'s ability to best educate its students -- that is, to regain control of the city school system.

So, if you can't get rid of the criminals you already have, you punish a group of innocent children, thereby ensuring more criminals in the future. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Cardin's assumption that it is ethically and morally correct to hold hostage an entire school system full of innocent children until he gets his way smacks of elitism and immaturity. Which are, frankly, exactly the virtues I saw in this man when I voted for his opponent in the last election.

Michael P. DeCicco Severn

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