Fort Ritchie is a part of Cascade

so why does redevelopment team ignore residents?

March 17, 2003

To the editor:

Before the end of June, the Board of Washington County Commissioners (BOCC) will be required to appoint four directors to fill expired terms on the board of PenMar Development Corporation (PMDC), the public instrumentality created to redevelop Fort Ritchie.

There have been many red flags at Fort Ritchie signaling the need for reform and new thinking on the PMDC board, and the Feb. 4, decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals prohibiting the transfer of base property to PMDC is the most recent and biggest red flag of them all.

The requests below constitute our recommendations to the BOCC on how to begin changing the culture of the PMDC board. Most of the requests were included in a petition that was presented to both the BOCC and PMDC last November. It was signed by more than 250 Fort Ritchie-area residents.

First, we request that the BOCC give prior notice to the public of PMDC board vacancies by use of newspaper ads, the county Web site, and other appropriate means. A review of previous PMDC meeting minutes indicates virtually all BOCC appointments to the PMDC board were selected from candidate slates pre-approved by the PMDC board itself. Perpetuation of such a process guarantees there will be limited, if any, reform and new thinking on the PMDC board.


Second, in accordance with DOD guidelines, we request that the BOCC ensure the PMDC board is representative of the communities most affected by the base closure. In this regard, the BOCC should proactively recruit and seek to appoint residents of Cascade to the PMDC board. Fort Ritchie is located in the heart of Cascade, and Cascade is the community most heavily impacted by the initial base closure and its continuingly thwarted redevelopment.

Yet, to date no resident of Cascade has ever been appointed to the PMDC board. The BOCC should recruit candidates from the growing number of Cascade residents who believe there may be assets at Fort Ritchie that could be used to address local community needs and make the redevelopment site - and the community of Cascade - more appealing to prospective businesses and their employees. No appointees should have business-related or other conflicts of interest that could impact their decisions as a PMDC director.

Third, we request that the BOCC require all PMDC appointees, as a condition of their appointment, to understand and fully comply with the Maryland Public Information Act, the Maryland Open Meetings Act, the Maryland statute creating PMDC, DOD base closure regulations, DOD's "Community Guide to Base Re-Use," and other federal, state and county laws, regulations and guidelines that directly affect PMDC operations. PMDC's past failures in this regard have impeded the redevelopment of Fort Ritchie and contributed greatly to its disastrous relations with the public.

Finally, we request that the BOCC establish operating guidelines to ensure that PMDC board members implement proactive measures to keep the public fully informed and seek its input, to the greatest extent possible, as follows:

1. Give public notice via local newspapers of upcoming PMDC board meetings and agendas

2. Hold PMDC board meetings in the evening to facilitate community involvement.

3. Update the public on recent developments at the beginning of each board meeting and allow adequate time for public comments and inquiries.

4. Hold any necessary closed sessions at the end of board meetings, whenever possible, and strictly limit closed sessions only to those matters specifically identified in the Maryland Open Meetings Act, and, with respect to prospective tenants, only to the extent required by law or when such tenants request confidentiality affirmatively and in writing.

5. Brief the public quarterly, in detail, on current and proposed re-use plans for all structures and parcels on base property, and any impact those plans may have on properties or assets lying outside of Fort Ritchie boundaries.

6. Establish and advertise standard procedures whereby interested citizens, community groups and prospective lessees and purchasers can easily arrange to view and inspect base buildings and property, and /or make proposals to lease and/or buy such properties.

We believe the BOCC must take these actions to ensure that accountability and openness become ingrained in PMDC operations and the overall Fort Ritchie redevelopment process. We believe the BOCC must act now so that Fort Ritchie, a potentially valuable county asset, does not become a huge county liability.

Cascade Committee Steering Committee
George Drastal, Jim Lemon, Alexis Gregson, Sharon Garcia, Wayne Buhrman and Karl Weissenbach (director)

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