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State says fort developer bound by deal

June 16, 2005|by TARA REILLY

CASCADE - The Columbia, Md., developer buying the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base is bound to a 1997 agreement that outlines building guidelines for the base's state-designated historic grounds, according to a June 1 letter from the Maryland Attorney General's Office.

The letter, written by Robert N. McDonald, Opinions and Advice chief counsel, states that Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) has agreed to adhere to the historic preservation agreement - known as the 1997 Programmatic Agreement - in the sale and development agreements it signed with the PenMar Development Corp.

The guidelines deal with ensuring the preservation and enhancement of the historic district.

McDonald's letter was a response to Sen. Brian E. Frosh, who expressed concerns in a May 17 letter to the Attorney General's Office regarding proposed development at Fort Ritchie.

"The Purchase and Sale Agreement and Development Agreement thus appear to bind COPT to comply with the requirements of the Programmatic Agreement," wrote McDonald, who said he reviewed the documents.

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

PenMar agreed to sell the 638-acre base to COPT for $9 million in July 2004. The price will drop to $5 million if COPT creates 1,400 jobs over nine years. The sale is on hold because of a federal injunction barring the Army from transferring the land to PenMar.

Last year, PenMar Executive Director Rich Rook said there were no definite plans to build on the base's historic property, but it was a possibility if there are no other areas on which to build.

Any plan to build on historic property would come with oversight from the Maryland Historic Trust.

The state has designated some of the base's land as the Camp Ritchie Historic District. The district includes at least 50 stone buildings, two lakes and approximately 30 acres of open space known as the parade grounds.

The district is eligible to be included in the National Register of Historic Places, the state has said.

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