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Village delays Key vote


Hoping the Rouse Co. might make it a better offer, the Kings Contrivance Village Board postponed last night voting on a plan to annex the so-called Key property.

The board decided to wait for the outcome of talks between Rouse executives and Rafia Siddiqui, the Columbia Association's vice president for administrative services. Siddiqui has said she would meet with the executives this week to suggest ways to make the annexation proposal more attractive to the association.

"As long as the Rouse Co. is willing to sit down ... it may end up being a far more positive outcome," board Chairwoman Barbara Seely said during the meeting at Amherst House in Kings Contrivance.

The board did not set a date for a vote.

Howard Research and Development, a Rouse affiliate, has asked the Columbia Association to annex a development, planned for 665 acres in North Laurel. The property straddles Interstate 95 and is bounded by Route 216 and Gorman Road.

The development would be marketed under the name Emerson, though Columbia Association officials continue to refer to it by its original name of Key.

Under the proposal, the association would provide a pool, parks, pathways and other recreational amenities for the development.

In return, the Columbia Association could collect assessment revenue from about 2 million square feet of commercial space and about 1,200 apartments, townhouses and single-family homes.

Siddiqui has said the project would add anywhere from $2.7 million to $22.8 million to association coffers over 20 years. Critics question those estimates and say the project would distract Columbia officials at a time when they need to concentrate on revitalizing the community's older villages.

Siddiqui said Friday that she arranged to meet this week with Alton J. Scavo, senior vice president of Rouse, and David E. Forester, senior development director and vice president at Howard Research and Development.

Siddiqui would not say yesterday if that meeting had occurred. Rouse officials could not be reached for comment.

As the Columbia Association's chief financial officer, Siddiqui has said she wanted to see whether Rouse would sweeten its deal before it was rejected outright by the Columbia Council.

Because the development would become a fourth neighborhood in Kings Contrivance, the council and the Kings Contrivance board must approve the plan for it to take effect.

Only one member of the five-member village board, Robert Patchan, spoke against annexation at last night's meeting.

But the current proposal appears likely to die in a tie vote at the council, where five of the 10 members have said they are at least inclined to vote against it. The council is scheduled to vote Sept. 28. Siddiqui has said she would ask Rouse officials if they would consider lending the Columbia Association up to $4.3 million for its initial investment in the project.

Under the original plan, the association would issue bonds or obtain other long-term financing to make that investment. Under Siddiqui's plan, Rouse would presumably provide the financing at a lower cost or for free, though she declined to disclose the details of her proposal.

Siddiqui has declined to disclose her other proposals for Rouse. She has said she expected to discuss the matter with the Columbia Council at its meeting Sept. 14.

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