Kercheval's PenMar plan is a sensible compromise

March 19, 2004

Not eager to get involved in what has become a messy local dispute, a committee of the Maryland General Assembly last week asked local lawmakers to compromise on legislation affecting the redevelopment of the former Fort Ritchie Army base.

County Commissioner James Kercheval has offered a plan that looks like a winner. It's time to accept it and get on with more important matters.

Bills were filed to restructure the board of the PenMar Development Corp. after the appointment of several new people prompted the resignation of other, veteran members.

Del. Chris Shank, calling the departed members "pillars of the community," said that more state oversight was needed.

The bill that Shank filed - a companion has been filed in the state Senate - would increase state oversight, but would also impose a residency requirement.


That last provision would remove Chairman Ron Sulchek and Elizabeth Morgan, the superintendent of schools, both of whom live outside the county.

The bill would also make the county commissioner who serves on the board a non-voting member, which would reduce the clout of Commissioner William Wivell, whose term doesn't expire until 2007.

We have editorialized at length on the reasons for this legislation. To recap, Del. Shank felt that the board made more progress with the previous members aboard.

Since those folks left, however, PenMar has restarted once-stalled talks with a master developer and received a letter of intent from a group of companies seeking a site for a biotechnology research facility.

Kercheval's compromise would increase oversight through changes to PenMar's bylaws instead of by legislation.

Kercheval's plan would replace the 10-member board, but with 11 members instead of nine.

Sulchek would remain chairman and Wivell would retain his vote until his term ends, after which the commissioner chosen to serve would be an ex-officio member.

Kercheval told the delegation it was important to solve this issue to allow all to focus on redeveloping Fort Ritchie. In a compromise, nobody gets everything they want, but it happens because everyone wants to make progress. It's time to compromise and Kercheval's formula makes sense.

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