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Historic land on base may be developed

July 20, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A company that wants to buy the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base might build on state-designated historic land within the 638-acre property, Army and state officials said.

PenMar Development Corp. representatives and the base's potential buyer, Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT), met with state preservation officials last week to discuss the historic property, Army base transition coordinator William Spigler said.

Beth Cole, administrator of Project Review and Compliance Office Preservation Services for the Maryland Historical Trust, said the state hasn't taken a position on building on the historic land because a development plan has not been submitted to the preservation office.

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Cole, who took part in the meeting, said the property is eligible to be included in the National Register of Historic Places.

Much of the former base is known by the state preservation office as the "Camp Ritchie Historic District." That district includes at least 50 stone buildings, two lakes and approximately 30 acres of open space known as the parade grounds.

Cole said any plan to build on historic property would come with oversight from the state preservation office. She also said there were "quite a few places" at the former base that could be developed without impacting historic property.

"Their in-going position on everything is no, and that's their job," PenMar Executive Director Rich Rook said.

Rook said there are no definite plans yet to build on historic property, but it is a possibility if there are no other areas on which to build.

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

The former base dates back to 1926 and was built for the Maryland National Guard, according to the Army.

It later was used as an Army base before shutting down in 1998.

The state preservation office approved in a 1997 agreement with the Army and PenMar the demolition of buildings constructed during World War II.

The WWII buildings are of wood-frame construction and do not meet the original design of the former base, according to information provided by the Army.

To build in the historic areas, Rook said PenMar or COPT would have to convince the state preservation office that there are no alternate places in which to build. If the state allows the development of the historic areas, he said PenMar or COPT would have to follow specific building guidelines outlined in the agreement.

If PenMar sells the base to the Columbia, Md.,-based COPT, he said the 1997 agreement would be included with the property's deed and that COPT would have to follow the building guidelines.

"It doesn't go away with the new user," Rook said. "They'd be held responsible by the historic preservation office."

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