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Environmental review on former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army stalls

The supplemental environmental impact statement is holding up development of the property

April 15, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • The demolition of U.S. Army barracks on the grounds of the former Fort Ritchie was supposed to make way for development. However, development of the property, which is owned by Columbia, Md.-based Corporate Office Properties Trust, or COPT, has been stalled as officials await the results of a supplemental environmental impact statement.
Herald-Mail file photo

CASCADE — Work on a supplemental environmental impact statement about the proposed development of the former Fort RitchieU.S. Armybase has not begun because the Army hasn’t designated money for the study, Army environmental attorney David Howlett said last week.

The earliest the environmental study would start would be this summer, but that depends on when the Central Army Headquarters designates money for the study, Howlett said.

Development of the property, which is owned by Columbia, Md.-based Corporate Office Properties Trust, or COPT, has been stalled as officials await the results of the environmental review, said Bill Hofmann, COPT’s senior property and environmental services manager for the former Fort Ritchie property.

The base, near Cascade, was closed in 1998 and was later transferred to COPT, which planned a development including 1.7 million square feet of office space, and 673 homes and apartments.

Hofmann said that development is still COPT’s long-term plan, even though the company reduced the value of the land to zero a year ago due to the inability to recover its $28 million investment in the property. The company hasn’t been able to recover its investment because of economic times and a lawsuit regarding the property, Hofmann said.

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COPT is not allowed to develop the land because of that lawsuit, which is awaiting the environmental review, Hofmann said.

A U.S. District Court judge ordered the environmental review in November 2009 in response to a lawsuit filed in 2005 by area property owners Jim Lemon and Robin Biser.

Lemon and Biser alleged in the suit that COPT’s redevelopment plan called for a higher development intensity level than the scenarios the Army evaluated in its 1998 Environmental Impact Statement and that the plan introduced historical and water-related impacts not evaluated in the 1998 statement.

In December 2011, Howlett had said he hoped the supplemental environmental impact statement would be available for public review this spring.

A Record of Environmental Consideration was done after the judge ordered further environmental analysis, but Army officials decided in 2011 that they needed to go back and do a full environmental study, said Dori Nipps, executive director of PenMar Development Corp.

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