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It's time to give Cascade a seat on PenMar's board

July 09, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

Maybe Washington County doesn't need a citizens advisory committee to oversee redevelopment of the former Fort Ritchie army base, but the area certainly needs more of a voice than it has now. As we've suggested in the past, there should be a seat on the PenMar Development board for a member of the Cascade community.

The proposal for the citizens advisory group was advanced in a July 3 letter to the Washington County Commissioners from Jim Lemon and Karl Weissenbach. The letter said that the panel would ensure that citizens were not left out of the planning process in the future.

Interviewed on Sunday, Weissenbach said he envisioned a board with members from all over the county, because the redevelopment effort's success would affect the entire region.

County Commissioners Paul Swartz and William Wivell were skeptical, saying that there's already a board working on the redevelopment of the old base. Swartz said he hoped that PenMar's new executive director - a search is under way - would hold informal meetings with community members top discuss the future of the base. Wivell said he'd keep an open mind, but needed to be convinced of the need first.

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The drive for representation of some sort is coming because some in the Cascade community suspect the redevelopment process is not moving like it should, as evidenced by the distraction posed by legal disputes with one tenant and the last executive director's abrupt departure - after less than three months on the job - for reasons that still aren't clear.

Perhaps these situations were unavoidable, but putting a Cascade resident on PenMar's board would reassure the community that the redevelopment authority is taking care of business. The old base's neighbors will have to live with any future tenants the PenMar board brings in. It's time for the PenMar board's members to give someone from Cascade a seat at the table, or provide a good reason why they shouldn't.

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