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Group presents site plans for former U.S. Army base

September 16, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

The group that has agreed to buy the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base presented preliminary site plans for the redevelopment of the base in a closed meeting on Monday.

Those drawings included plans for homes, office space, retail and other businesses on the former base, said Randall Griffin, president and chief operating officer of Columbia, Md.-based Corporate Office Properties Trust.

COPT has signed an agreement with the PenMar Development Corp. that would transfer approximately 600 acres to COPT at a price of $5 million to $9 million.

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Griffin said Tuesday that the amount of money his company would invest in the project would exceed $150 million over 10 to 15 years, and likely would bring more than 1,500 jobs.

Griffin declined to discuss details of what would be included in the plans to be presented Monday.

Griffin said the plans were presented to the PenMar Development Corp. board in a closed meeting, and a subcommittee of the board will review those plans for further suggestions.

The plans will not be open for public review until Sept. 27, when COPT will present them at a meeting in Cascade. Griffin said the public and the board's input will be reflected in the final plans, which must satisfy the PenMar board before the sale takes place

The sale is being governed by a 26-page document signed by PenMar and COPT in late July. The sale agreement came after years of PenMar trying to find a developer for the base.

In anticipation of the base's 1998 closing, state legislators created PenMar Development Corp. in 1997 to move the property into private hands while trying to maximize the economic benefit to the community.

After unsuccessful attempts to sell the land, PenMar and COPT signed the agreement that would sell the land for $5 million to $9 million, depending on whether COPT meets a requirement of bringing up to 1,400 jobs within roughly nine years.

The Cascade Committee, a group of area residents watching the sale, will be interested in what COPT presents on Sept. 27, said James Lemon, a former Cascade resident and current member of the citizens group.

Lemon, contacted Tuesday at his Vienna, Va., home, said he hoped the drawings would show that COPT plans to preserve several public recreation areas and not overdevelop the land.

Lemon said the plans he has heard are not encouraging. Referring to a 1997 study of the base, Lemon said there are approximately 220 acres of developable land, but COPT's estimates are more than 100 acres more.

"They would probably have to eat into some of that open space ... (and) that would certainly mean more traffic than was anticipated under the community's plan" from 1997, Lemon said.

Griffin said construction could begin as early as this spring, but a construction date depends on whether PenMar obtains the land, which is still owned by the U.S. Army. The transfer is on hold because of a U.S. Court of Appeals injunction barring the transfer.

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