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Wivell: PenMar not close to deal

December 27, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

The PenMar Development Corp. and a North Bethesda, Md., company probably will not reach an agreement to redevelop the former U.S. Army base Fort Ritchie by the time an exclusive negotiating deal expires on Dec. 31, Washington County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said.

PenMar had agreed to hold discussions about a plan to revitalize the base solely with Lerner Enterprises through New Year's Eve.

"We don't have an acceptable proposal at this time," PenMar Executive Director Richard Rook said. "We've been going back and forth."

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PenMar was created by the state in 1997 to redevelop the base, which the Army shut down in 1998.

The County Commissioners this fall formed a five-member committee to negotiate with Lerner about taking charge of development efforts at the approximately 600-acre former base.

Wivell said that while PenMar will have the option of considering development plans by other companies after Dec. 31, negotiations with Lerner will continue.

Wivell also is a member of the PenMar board of directors.

"We're certainly not going to go out and talk to someone else," PenMar board Chairman Ronald Sulchek said.

Wivell said Lerner and PenMar still have to work out details on the development plan.

Sulchek said a committee will continue to hold negotiations with Lerner, but he would not say whether it is the same committee that was appointed by the commissioners.

Rook and Wivell said they could not discuss the specifics of the proposal. The PenMar board received an update on the proposal by the negotiating committee Monday in closed session.

Wivell said, at some point the PenMar board will have to make a decision on a redevelopment plan.

Some of the properties Lerner has developed include Washington Square in Washington, D.C., a 1-million-square-foot office and retail development; the Dulles Town Center, a 1.4 million-square-foot two-level mall in a 554-acre development in Loudon County, Va.; and The Corporate Office Centre at Tysons II, a 5 million-square-foot mixed-use development in Fairfax County, Va., according to Lerner's Web site.

Lerner representatives could not be reached for comment Friday.

Seven people resigned from the 15-member PenMar board of directors since about the time the commissioners appointed a committee to negotiate with Lerner.

Some of those who resigned have said they did so because of infighting among board members.

The commissioners have since appointed two people to fill vacant slots on the PenMar board, which now has 10 members.

Some commissioners and Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, have expressed interest in reducing the board from 15 to 11 members. Board members are appointed by the commissioners.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said this week he'd like PenMar's bylaws to be changed so the commissioners also have the authority to remove members.

Wivell said the PenMar board has recently made that change.

Rook said the commissioners now have the power to remove board members for criminal behavior or malfeasance.

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