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Lawmakers' aides meet with Army on fort transfer

March 01, 2001

Lawmakers' aides meet with Army on fort transfer



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Representatives of the U.S. Army and aides of Maryland's two U.S. senators have met to discuss speeding up the conveyance of the former Fort Ritchie Army base to PenMar Development Corp.

Karen Baker, a spokeswoman for the Army, said Wednesday she could shed no new light on the timeline for the conveyance.

At Friday's meeting, The Army explained its plans to transfer the land to PenMar, Baker said. She called it "a productive, positive meeting."

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Baker said she did not attend the meeting but talked to those who did.

In Jan. 26 letters, PenMar Executive Director James LaFleur asked Maryland's U.S. senators for help in having the property conveyed to PenMar.

In response, Senators Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes, both D-Md., wrote letters to the Army asking for a meeting.

PenMar was created by the Maryland General Assembly to redevelop the land for business use to replace the 2,000 jobs lost when Fort Ritchie closed in September 1998.

PenMar has subleased land at the Army post to Role Models America and the International Masonry Institute. The institute wants to expand and build a facility, but can't do so until PenMar gets title to the land.

After 18 months of negotiations, the PenMar board and the Army negotiating team in November approved a memorandum of agreement for the land conveyance, LaFleur said. The plan was for the memorandum of agreement to be approved as soon as possible, he said.

PenMar had anticipated approval in January 2001 and expected to take title to the first phase of the property no later than July, LaFleur has said. PenMar does not expect to get all of the property at once.

At Friday's meeting was Karl Weissenbach, a Cascade resident who is chairman of the Cascade Committee, formerly known as the Save Our School committee, which is fighting a move to close Cascade Elementary School.

"I was pleased that the meeting was held to lay out the concerns that the senators and I had about the conveyance. The meeting was successful in that these issues were discussed," he said.

"I believe that a long-term delay in the conveyance of the property to PenMar would wreck economic development plans for Cascade, which would make it more difficult to fight to keep our community school open," he said.

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