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Redevelopment plan for Fort Ritchie OK'd

October 29, 2005|By TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

CASCADE - The PenMar Development Corp. believes the pieces are in place for a federal judge to lift the injunction barring the transfer of the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base and holding up the sale of the property to a Columbia, Md., developer.

PenMar Executive Director Richard D. Rook said the final piece, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's approval of the base's redevelopment plan, was received on Thursday.

"Obviously, (the approval) is a major step forward," Rook said.

Rook said HUD's decision will allow the Army to request that a federal judge dismiss a lawsuit that led to the injunction.

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The injunction has prevented the Army from conveying the property to PenMar. PenMar plans to sell the approximately 630-acre base to Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT).

Rook said he didn't know when a federal judge might make a ruling on the injunction, saying it could be several months from now or sooner.

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

"We're really going to have to wait for that injunction to be lifted before we can move forward with creating jobs and building a better Fort Ritchie," Rook said.

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.

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.

In May, a federal judge denied a request to lift the injunction, ruling that some procedural errors remained in the base's disposal process. One of the judge's requirements was that PenMar resubmit the base's development plan for approval by HUD. Rook said PenMar has complied with the judge's other requirements.

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