With a 3-0 Board of Public Works vote on Wednesday, 320 jobs and the nearly $18.3 million in salaries and spending that come with them were scheduled a trip out of Anne Arundel County.
The board approved a lease deal that will move Maryland's Department of Housing and Community Development out of its Crownsville headquarters to a new space in Prince George's County.
If the project is finished on time, the state's 15-year lease deal with Rockville-based Berman Enterprises will begin June 1, 2015 for the 97,332-square-foot space in New Carrollton.
While the state pays around $1.5 million for the housing department's current location, the new site will cost taxpayers nearly $3.9 million per year, plus $357,000 annually for the first five years for parking.
While proponents say the project will be a boon for Prince George's County and the state, some Anne Arundel County Republicans say the cost is frivolous, jobs will be missed and the move is unnecessary.
Forty percent of DHCD's employees live in Anne Arundel, said DHCD Secretary Raymond A. Skinner. Ten percent live in Prince George's. The department's 320 jobs paid an average of $57,121 in fiscal 2012.
On Wednesday, several county lawmakers including Dels. Ron George, R-Arnold, Steve Schuh, R-Gibson Island, and Tony McConkey, R-Severna Park, urged the board to reject the move.
"It's very disappointing," said Schuh after the meeting. "The project is uneconomic, politically driven and adverse to the citizens of Anne Arundel County ... this whole episode is a sad example of how political considerations can sometimes trump good sense and the interests of our citizens."
A move for DHCD has long been in the making.
Gov. Martin O'Malley, one member on the Board of Public Works, promised during his first gubernatorial campaign to move the state housing department to Prince George's. In 2010, O'Malley picked 14 state transit stations, including New Carrollton, as priorities for state development assistance.
Last year, the state chose a location near New Carrollton. It later decided to redo the selection process.
The housing department's current office is at a 155,900-square foot building at 100 Community Place in Crownsville, built in 1991. The structure houses a few other state offices, including the Maryland Environmental Trust.
Under the proposed deal, the department's new headquarters in New Carrollton would be located at 7800 Harkins Road.
It would anchor a mixed-use development that will include 500 residential units and 65,000-square-feet of retail in its first phase. When fully built out through a second phase, the project will incorporate up to 2,400 residential dwelling units, 100,000-square-feet of retail and a 300-room hotel.
Initially, the deal would have required employees to pay $85 per month to park at the new office for the first five years. But the state decided to pick up that cost prior to Wednesday's meeting.
The project's first phase will create 132 permanent jobs and 325 construction jobs, according to Michael A. Gaines Sr. of the Department of General Services.
The move's proponents, including several Prince George's County delegates, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker and the site's developer, told the board the move will spur economic growth and bring new tax revenue to the county and state.
"It will help us turn this into a place where people actually stop, work, shop, play and spend money," Baker said.
O'Malley said in a statement released after the vote that the project will "create a vibrant transit community in Prince George's County."
Del. Dereck E. Davis, D-Prince George's, said he heard some DHCD employees "are not too thrilled about the move." He also said he understood why Anne Arundel lawmakers came to the meeting to voice their concern.
"This isn't about taking from someone else or doing something at someone else's expense," Davis said. "Certainly, I knew if I was in (Anne Arundel lawmakers') position, I'd be here too opposing the move."
Davis went on to say that he looks at the move from the perspective that the benefits will be seen across Maryland.
After the meeting, Schuh said "that was astounding."
"Whatever happened to do unto others as you would have them do unto you?," Schuh said in response to Davis' statement.
With the board's approval, Anne Arundel lawmakers agreed there is little that could stand in the way of the move now.
George said he thought there was some progress made. At least, he said, members of the board expressed their desire to help the employees through the process.
State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp said a condition of the lease's approval was that the state needed to look at public transportation opportunities for current housing department employees.
The Department of Housing and Community Development runs programs related to home ownership, affordable housing and community revitalization.
In a letter to the Comptroller Peter Franchot, who sits on the Board of Public Works with O'Malley and Kopp, Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman said the move was "ill-timed three years ago when it was first proposed, and it still is today."
"Press reports of the governor's announcement indicated that as many as 150 Anne Arundel County residents could be forced to make a choice between a long, expensive commute and finding a new job," Neuman wrote. "I hope you will join me in strongly opposing this relocation."