IMI deserves a break

November 12, 2003

It may be, as PenMar Development Corp. chair Ron Sulchek said, that the defeat of legislation to speed up the transfer of property at the former Fort Ritchie Army base to a tenant there is only a temporary setback. We hope so. We are more concerned that Maryland's congressional delegation isn't working together on the base redevelopment.

When Fort Ritchie was shut down in 1998, about 2,000 jobs were lost and PenMar, a citizen-led effort, was created to redevelop the property. But the discovery of unexploded ordnance delayed the effort, as did a legal wrangle with a former tenant, Role Models Academy.

And to add one more problem, in February a court ruled that the old base couldn't be transferred from the Army because PenMar until they've properly advertised the fact that land there is available for free to certain groups.

But a proposal to transfer 30 acres to the International Masonry Institute was nixed by a conference of the Senate and House Armed Services Committee, for reasons that weren't clear to a representative for U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., who's championed the IMI center project.


Lisa Wright, the spokesman for Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-6th, also professed to be uniformed. Bartlett has been lukewarm to the project because it doesn't fit his vision of the site as a place for remote facilities for a variety of federal security agencies.

But as Bartlett acknowledged in a visit with Herald-Mail staff, many of those agencies, though required by post-9/11 law to create back-up facilities, would rather build something new.

In truth, however, IMI has been waiting patiently since 1997, when Robert Sweeney, then PenMar's executive director, said that training facilities were part of the reuse plan and that IMI's project "fit within that vision."

Visions do change over time, but IMI has stayed with it, investing $2 million in a facility that it hasn't been able to purchase or even lease for the long term.

Whatever the vision is now, Bartlett, Sarbanes and Sen. Barbara Mikulski should be able to agree that IMI deserves some consideration for hanging in when few others would even consider the site.

The Herald-Mail Articles