For Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, the effort to redevelop the former David Taylor Research Center property is like waging a war on two fronts - one with angry residents and the other with what she sees as a sluggish Navy bureaucracy.
The day after a county resident sued to overturn two key new laws allowing redevelopment to move forward, Owens publicly vented her long-simmering frustration with the Navy, which owns the land.
Her goal was clear: to get the federal government moving more quickly to unload the 46.5 acres near Annapolis on terms acceptable to the county, so that work can begin on a high-tech office park.
"I am trying to assess the viability of proceeding with the Navy," Owens told reporters. "I will not accept David Taylor unless the issues are resolved with the Navy and the Pentagon."
Owens said many of the issues involve money. The delay could cost the county $1 million because it must pay for upkeep at the former naval research center, she said.
On a more optimistic note, she said county officials had a "good" meeting with Navy officials last week. But she tempered even that bit of positive news by invoking a strife-torn region.
"It was like the Middle East peace conference," she said, alluding to the many areas of misunderstanding between the Navy and county. "They don't understand land-use issues, [Chesapeake Bay] critical areas, subdivisions."
Shirley Copeland, spokeswoman at the Navy's Engineering Field Activity Chesapeake command, said she did not have "clearance" from superiors to respond to questions about the process. Last month, she said the Navy wants to unload the site of the center-whose closure was announced in 1995 - "as expediently as the process will allow."
For months, Owens has publicly jousted with the David Taylor plan's opponents on the County Council and in nearby neighborhoods. But she had only hinted at strains with the Navy. Asked why she was quiet for so long, Owens said, "I want it to work."
Owens enthusiastically supports a developer's plan to build 730,000 square feet of office space and a waterfront inn at the site.
The first phase of the 10-year project would include construction of a headquarters for TeleCommunication Systems Inc., based in Annapolis.
The land transfer is supposed to occur in two steps: First, the Navy will convey the property to the county. Then, the county will convey it to Annapolis Partners, a joint venture of Mesirow Stein Real Estate of Chicago and TCS.