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PenMar's secret deal: What will county get?

July 01, 2004

After seven years of trying unsuccessfully to redevelop the old Fort Ritchie Army base, we understand the PenMar Development Corporation's desire to get something going there.

But the Tuesday decision to sell the base was made in an unadvertised, secret meeting in which the board approved an agreement, the details of which have not not public.

Our questions include:

  • How much will Washington County reap for selling the property to Corporate Office Properties Trust?

  • What guarantees are there that COPT will bring jobs to the facility, and that they'll be good jobs?

  • What happens to the residents who are living there now?

  • What about the International Masonry Institute, which has invested years trying to create a school at the facility? Will IMI be able to stay, or will it be told it's time to go?

  • Will the public have any access to the base's facilities, such as the gym, recently put back into service by the CSL youth sports group?


Because the meeting wasn't advertised - a failure PenMar Executive Director Rich Rook took responsibility for - we expect a legal challenge to the vote by the Cascade Committee and possibly others.

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Given PenMar's recent experience with the Role Models Academy, someone should have made sure that this detail wasn't overlooked.

Most important, though, is the job guarantees we hope PenMar has obtained from COPT.

Washington County has a history of treating every prospective offer of jobs - no matter what they pay or how low-tech they are - as if it might be the last one ever made. Any deal to sell the base should be linked to creation of top-paying jobs in fields with a future.

When a number of PenMar board members resigned in 2003, we hoped that the board would open up its deliberations to public view and the old base to public use.

That seemed to be happening, but now there's uncertainty again. We hope PenMar will recognize its obligation to tell citizens what's going on and what sort of deal has been made.

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