Anne Arundel County planning officials have approved development plans for a 46-acre piece of former Navy land outside Annapolis, clearing the way for final construction permits on one of the largest and highest-profile waterfront projects in recent county history.
The plan for a $250 million development on the Severn River has changed little from the one county officials saw before giving the former David Taylor Research Center to their chosen development team, Annapolis Partners, in October 2002.
Plans call for more than a dozen office buildings, a hotel and stores to serve the complex. Construction could take a decade.
"This is a very good thing," said Ron McDonald, project executive for Annapolis Partners. "We've managed to complete a process in which I think everyone felt they had a say."
County Executive Janet S. Owens, who pushed to give the project to Annapolis Partners, said she is happy to see progress.
She praised the process for incorporating environmental safeguards and community input.
"I look forward to the day when this site, which has more community safeguards than any other in the history of this county, is home to high-quality jobs and a significant source of revenue for our tax base," Owens said.
The complex is slated to include more than 500,000 square feet of office space in two- and three-story structures, a 100-room inn, a small retail area and almost 2,000 parking spaces.
The developers will demolish 86 buildings at the former Navy research base.
In the first phase of the project, Annapolis Partners plans to create 150,000 square feet of office space for the headquarters of Annapolis-based TeleCommunication Systems Inc.
The plan received approval in June from the David Taylor Redevelopment Advisory Committee, a panel of residents that helped shape the proposed development and was critical, at times, of Annapolis Partners.
Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, a Republican whose district includes the site, said she still worries about traffic on the small roads that lead to the complex.
"But as long as the plan is followed the way it's supposed to be ... then a lot of the concerns of the citizenry will be addressed," she said.
The development of the David Taylor property has a contentious history.
Congress voted to close the Navy base in 1995, and by 1999 it was virtually abandoned. The county then began negotiations with the Navy to get the site transferred to a private developer.
Many local leaders, including Owens, supported the Annapolis Partners proposal, projecting that it would bring 1,800 jobs and $3 million in annual tax revenue to the county.
But some members of the advisory committee said the plan could allow more building than initially proposed and overload the surrounding area with traffic. Despite such concerns, the County Council approved the transfer in 2002.
When the county handed over the property that year, officials predicted that redevelopment work would begin within a few months. But progress on the site plan lagged, and in fall 2003, Tropical Storm Isabel caused further delays.
Annapolis Partners submitted its development plan in April, and the review process moved fairly quickly, because most broad requirements for the projects had been worked out before the county transferred the land.
Construction on the three-phase project could take a decade or more, the developers have said. McDonald said Annapolis Partners will apply quickly for grading and building permits.
"But it would be premature to say when we might see a shovel out there," he said.