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PenMar files redevelopment plan with HUD

July 12, 2005|by TARA REILLY

CASCADE

tarar@herald-mail.com

The PenMar Development Corp. has submitted a redevelopment plan to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, PenMar Executive Director Rich Rook said Monday morning.

Rook made the announcement at a PenMar meeting and said HUD will review the plan for approval.

"We expect something pretty soon" from HUD, Rook said.

PenMar wants a federal injunction preventing the sale of the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base lifted so the Army can transfer the land to PenMar. PenMar plans to sell the former base to Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) of Columbia, Md., for $9 million.

That price will drop to $5 million if COPT creates 1,400 jobs over nine years. COPT plans to turn the base into a residential and business center.

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A federal judge in May denied a request by the Army and the U.S. Department of Education to lift the restriction, saying there were still "procedural defects" in the former base's disposal process.

The judge ruled that the disposal process was faulty because PenMar in 1997 submitted a base redevelopment plan to the Secretary of HUD for approval before the Secretary of Defense evaluated notices from agencies interested in acquiring portions of the base for public benefit uses.

According to the ruling, the Secretary of Defense is to review the notices of interest first. The ruling stated that PenMar was then required to submit a redevelopment plan to HUD.

Role Models America Inc., which operated a military-style school for high school dropouts at the base from 2000 to July 2002, filed for the injunction, claiming it wasn't given proper notice that it was possible under federal law for the school to acquire base property at no cost.

Instead, starting in March 2000, Role Models subleased 253,000 square feet from PenMar for about $1.3 million a year.

Under federal guidelines, the military may transfer surplus base properties in conjunction with other federal agencies for uses such as schools, parks and prisons.

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

The injunction has been in place since 2003, when the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Army and the Department of Education violated legal requirements because an advertisement announcing the property's availability was faulty, according to court documents.

Jim Lemon, who is part of a lawsuit against PenMar, the Army and COPT, claimed at the meeting that PenMar violated Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) regulations over the manner in which it submitted the redevelopment plan to HUD last month. He said PenMar failed to seek public feedback on the plan and never held a public hearing outlining its contents.

Lemon and Cascade resident Robin Biser filed the suit in May in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. They allege in the suit that "the defendants have conspired to implement an illegitimate and unlawful redevelopment plan at Fort Ritchie."

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