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Panel named to oversee PenMar talks

October 04, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Commissioners have formed a five-member committee to handle negotiations with a Bethesda, Md., company about taking charge of redevelopment plans for former U.S. Army base Fort Ritchie.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said Friday the committee will negotiate with Lerner Enterprises about having the company become the former base's master developer. After the committee completes its discussions with Lerner, it will make a recommendation to the PenMar Development Corp.'s board of directors, Wivell said.

Wivell said Lerner would take a lead role in redevelopment.

PenMar Development Corp. was created by the state in 1997 to redevelop the former base when the Army shut it down in 1998. PenMar board members are appointed by the commissioners.

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PenMar is waiting for the Army to convey the base to PenMar so it can be sold to businesses.

Some commissioners have said publicly they are not happy with PenMar's efforts or the pace at which it has been moving to redevelop the former base. Commissioner John C. Munson has said the PenMar Development Corp. and the board should be eliminated.

Wivell said he hopes Lerner could help speed up redevelopment in anticipation of the land conveyance as early as next spring.

PenMar Executive Director Richard Rook did not return two phone calls this week. PenMar Chairwoman Paula Lampton, who Wivell said is PenMar's spokeswoman, did not return a phone call placed to her home Friday afternoon.

Lerner representatives also did not return a phone call Friday afternoon.

While the County Commissioners may voice their thoughts on whether Lerner should play a big part in redevelopment efforts, the final decision will be up to the PenMar board, Wivell said.

"I believe the majority of the board has an interest in pursuing it," said Wivell, who is also a member of the PenMar board.

Wivell said Lerner would work in partnership with PenMar, but Lerner would be in charge of the overall development plan.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said the committee will be headed by Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission Director Tim Troxell. Other committee members are Rook, EDC President Peggy Bushey, PenMar Board member Steve Hull and Dick Phoebus, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc.

Troxell said the committee wouldn't begin its work until after the PenMar board discussed the committee at its Oct. 13 meeting. Like Wivell, he said he thinks working with Lerner will have the support of the PenMar board.

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