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Ritchie sale will bring jobs, tax revenue

August 17, 2004|by George G.B. Griffin

There have been several recent comments from others in your paper about the proposed sale by the PenMar Development Corporation (PMDC) of the former Fort Ritchie Army Garrison in Cascade to Corporate Office Property Trust (COPT). I am writing to correct the record.

After careful consideration of all the factors relevant to the redevelopment of the base, the PMDC board of directors decided on July 26 by a vote of 8 to 2 to authorize me to sign an agreement with COPT.

That decision was reached over a period of several months, after considering several other proposals. It was preceded by intense negotiations with COPT, during which the board carefully considered all aspects of the transaction.

In reaching its decision, the board considered, among other things, the creation of job opportunities, the value of the property, the high costs of necessary improvements to the infrastructure, benefits to the community, the significant financial commitment from a qualified and successful developer, major additions to county and state tax rolls and the remote location of Fort Ritchie. The board concluded that COPT meets these requirements better than any other applicant we considered.

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The agreement obligates COPT to comply with the reuse requirements PMDC is required by law to meet. The top priorities for the redevelopment of the facility under the Base Realignment and Closure resolutions are "to identify, plan and install a viable usage plan which will provide jobs for those that have been displaced, foster an economy that will support small businesses and reduce the economic impact on a three-county, two-state area."

The board insisted that improved benefits for the local community be included. Thus, for example, COPT must provide a redevelopment plan acceptable to PMDC prior to closing the transaction, and must expend not less than $7.5 million on implementing that plan. It expects to include facilities permanently available to the local community.

The decision to move forward provides for a 90-day study and due diligence period by both COPT and PMDC. The contract cannot become final until both sides agree to implement its terms. After that, PMDC will remain an active community sentinel to ensure that the contract is fulfilled.

Last Sunday, the only two of our Board Members who voted against the deal aired their positions publicly in a letter to The Herald-Mail. While they have a right to voice their opinions, it should be stressed that they raised all of their concerns during our considerations.

The other members of the board considered those concerns carefully, but did not find them convincing. Moreover, I have been told that the contract has the support of a majority of Washington County's Board of County Commissioners and members of the Washington County Delegation to the General Assembly.

George G. B. Griffin is chairman of the board of directors of PenMar Development Corporation.

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