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End squabbling over Fort Ritchie

June 23, 2005

Assume for a moment that the PenMar Development Corp. made a serious error when it signed a contract to sell the old Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base to Corporate Office Properties Trust.

That's what opponents of the sale believe. The property should have been appraised, they say, because the acreage there is worth more than $9 million the contract calls for, an amount that drops to $5 million if 1,400 jobs are created there over nine years.

But if an appraisal were done now and it was found that the property were really worth $20 million, what could PenMar do?

We doubt the redevelopment group would try to renege on the deal. If it did, we have no doubt that COPT would file suit and we are certain that the company would win. A contract is a contract and even if PenMar signed an imperfect one, it's legal and binding.

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Attempting to pull out of the deal now, in addition to putting PenMar in a perilous position legally, would send the message that Washington County isn't serious about wanting to redevelop the old fort.

And it would tell the development community that local citizens are hicks who don't know how business works.

As those circulating a petition asking that this project move forward are urging, it's time to stop arguing and do everything possible to replace the jobs lost when the base closed seven years ago.

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