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Group eyes former fort for housing

December 12, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Interfaith Housing of Western Maryland hopes part of the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base will become home to some of its low-to-moderate income families.

Jerry Bucey, the Frederick, Md.-based organization's project manager for multi-family and special projects, said Thursday that Interfaith Housing would like to build 25 single-family houses at the base.

Interfaith Housing will apply to the U.S. Army to have some of the base's land transferred to the organization under the Public Benefit Conveyance process, Bucey said.

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The Public Benefit Conveyance process allows interested parties to apply for surplus federal property. The deadline to apply is Jan. 9 at 4 p.m.

"All we need is the land right now," Bucey said. "We're hoping to get some of the property to help out in Washington County."

The houses would be built under the Self-Help Housing Program, in which qualified clients put in 30 hours of labor each week in building their homes. All of the houses are constructed at the same time, and Interfaith Housing provides supervision and trains families on building homes.

Families move into their homes at the same time once all of the houses are completed.

Bucey said qualified clients will be responsible for their mortgage payments, which are based on their income levels.

Clients range from "single-parent ladies to families with 17 members," Bucey said.

So far, approximately 150 units have been constructed and 34 are in the works. Bucey said Interfaith Housing is planning to build 50 more houses next year, including the 25 proposed for Fort Ritchie.

Washington County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said he had heard rumors that Interfaith Housing was interested in the former base, but he didn't know any other details.

He said he also had heard that some developers might want to put upscale housing at the former base.

Wivell also is on the PenMar Development Corp.'s board of directors. PenMar was created by the state in 1997 to redevelop Fort Ritchie for jobs.

The Army closed the base in 1998.

Wivell said whether new residential housing would be a fit at the former base would evolve as plans of the master developer become clearer.

In the fall, the County Commissioners formed a five-member committee to negotiate with Bethesda, Md.,-based Lerner Enterprises about taking the lead role in redeveloping the former base.

Wivell said he thought commercial and residential development would go hand-in-hand in efforts to revitalize Fort Ritchie.

"Simply the development of residential housing on its own is not PenMar's mission," Wivell said. "PenMar's mission is to create jobs."

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