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Board of Finance to meet Monday on Port Covington TIF

With the city's Board of Finance scheduled to meet Monday on the Port Covington public financing request, one member of the five-person body said she is concerned the process is moving too fast.

Sagamore Development, the real estate firm owned by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, has asked the city for a record $535 million advance on future property taxes to pay for roads, parks and other projects in the South Baltimore peninsula. The firm plans to develop a massive mixed-use project, anchored by a new Under Armour campus, on 160 acres it controls there over the next few decades.

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Money for the infrastructure would come from bonds sold by the city and the debt would be repaid by new property tax revenue generated by the project in what's known as tax increment financing.

The so-called TIF proposal has been moving on an aggressive timeline, with backing from key political figures, including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Larry Hogan.

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The board of the Baltimore Development Corp. first received the proposal in March, approving it about two weeks later. The Board of Finance granted conceptual backing on April 25, even as some members asked for more information, such as an outline of the project's phasing and when buildings would be completed.

Monday's Board of Finance meeting is to review specific legislation to establish the tax district and other parts of the agreement, which would then go to the City Council.

The administration, which holds one of the board seats, backs the legislation and expects it to move forward Monday, said Anthony McCarthy, a Rawlings-Blake spokesman.

Sagamore has said it hopes to win approval of the TIF before the end of the year. The firm, working with the state and city, also has applied for more than $76 million in federal grant funding, a request tied to approval of the city funds.

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The city's Urban Design & Architecture Review Panel is expected to vote later this month on a master plan for the project. Many of the specifics related to the long-term project — including the design of the parks that the TIF would pay for — remain unknown.

Dana C. Moulden, one of the Board of Finance's citizen members, said she has not had as much time as she would like to review the project.

"I'm not comfortable with how they're pushing this through so quickly," she said.

Moulden said she is not concerned about the TIF's size, which would be one of the largest of such deals in the country if approved. But she said she wants to know more about how the money would be used and if there would be a way to craft the agreement to make sure new revenue is dedicated to pay for the additional city services the new users of the area would create.

She and Comptroller Joan M. Pratt also said they want Sagamore to make a more concrete commitment to including affordable housing on the site.

Pratt said her questions are being answered "day by day" and declined to say if she would be ready to vote Monday.

"I'm going to wait and see what's presented," she said.

The two remaining members of the board, Larry I. Silverstein and Frederick W. Meier Jr., did not respond to requests for comment.

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