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County board has a role in any sale of Fort Ritchie

July 20, 2004

The U.S. Department of Education's ruling that Role Models America isn't entitled to a slice of the old Fort Ritchie Army base seems to clear the way for a transfer of the facility to the PenMar Development Corp.

PenMar has been in negotiations to sell the base to Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) of Columbia, Md.

Such talks are usually private and the deal could be done with no public review by anyone. However, the PenMar board has wisely decided to allow the Washington County Commissioners review the final agreement.

We urge the county board to do so carefully and make sure that the following items are considered:

  • Jobs. PenMar's reason for being is to replace the thousands of jobs lost when the base was closed. There should be a requirement that most of the new jobs pay a certain amount - at least three times the minimum wage, for example.

  • Infrastructure. Depending on the sale price, COPT should be willing to take on the job of repairing the base roads and the other amenities, as opposed to handing that job to the county government.

  • Access. Barring the location of a CIA station or other super-secret facility at the old base, residents of the county should have reasonable access for activities like walking and the use of the gym for youth sports activities.

  • Community input. If COPT truly wants to be a good neighbor, it should create a citizen advisory board that would allow members of the Cascade community some input into what's planned there.


Since Fort Ritchie's closing in 1998, the PenMar board has struggled to put together a redevelopment plan. The board - whose members have changed over the years - has fought obstacles like the discovery of unexploded ordnance and legal battles with Role Models.

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The temptation for the PenMar board and the commissioners, now that the finish line seems so close, may be to declare victory and go home.

We hope that doesn't happen. COPT may be the perfect entity to bring jobs back to the old base, but if that's true, the deal will survive some close scrutiny by the commissioners. We urge them to give that job all the time and effort it will take to do it well.

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