Housing plan boosted

The Baltimore Sun

Maryland's lieutenant governor is backing a group of developers seeking federal permission to bring water and sewer lines under the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to support a $500 million project of homes and shops near an expanding Fort Meade.

In a letter sent to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown said that approving a permit for sewer and water service for Arundel Gateway would boost state efforts to prepare for a military expansion that within four years will bring at least 45,000 jobs and 28,000 households to Maryland.

Brown wrote Sept. 5 that Arundel Gateway, a development of 1,600 townhouses and a village center proposed on the east side of the parkway by Ribera Development LLC of Annapolis and Parkland Properties of Millersville, "will have a direct and positive impact on Fort Meade."

Brown, a Democrat overseeing the state's preparation for the base closure and realignment process, or BRAC, requested Kempthorne's "cooperation and assistance in expanding utility infrastructure in and around Fort Meade."

The letter echoes the sentiments of County Executive John R. Leopold, who wrote a similar letter Feb. 21 to the National Capital Region, which falls under Kempthorne's authority. "It is our hope that in this time of extensive transformation in Anne Arundel County, we can count on your cooperation," Leopold wrote.

Bill Line, a spokesman for the National Park Service, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Fort Meade is expected to receive more than 5,400 federal jobs - along with thousands more contractors - by 2011. In all, officials estimate more than 22,000 workers will arrive at the Army post by that time.

The 300-acre site for Arundel Gateway is in a designated growth area a mile from Fort Meade, with access to the parkway and Route 32. It is on a two-mile stretch of Route 198 in Laurel that abuts the Patuxent Research Refuge to the south and the Oak Hill Youth Center, a Washington-controlled juvenile detention center, to the north.

John C. Stamato, president of Ribera, and his partners envision a pedestrian-friendly project of 1,600 townhouses with a 250,000-square-foot village center. He has also committed to setting aside 10 percent of the units for work-force housing.

But the developers have major sticking points: They need county permission to rezone the mostly barren industrial property to allow for homes, shops and offices, and federal approval to bring water and sewer lines under the parkway from Maryland City.

Ribera has been in discussions with the National Park Service for nearly two years about accessing the parkway to put utility lines under it.

Having sought a zoning change last year, Ribera agreed to Leopold's condition in February to wait until the request could be weighed as part of the county's once-a-decade growth plan. In return, Leopold offered to help Ribera strike a deal with the park service.

Stamato said that his development company, the county's Department of Public Works and the State Highway Administration have agreed on where they want to place underground utilities across the parkway. The park service's approval process is expected to take six to nine months, he said.

If all goes according to plan, the county would be awarded a federal permit, allowing Stamato to extend utilities east of the parkway. Stamato purchased a sewage plant in Piney Orchard this year, with the intention of bringing sewer lines three miles west to the Route 198 corridor. Stamato estimated the cost of bringing in utilities from both directions could be $10 million.

On that schedule, Stamato said he is confident the project will take form as he envisioned and construction will begin in 2010.

One of the partners for Parkland, Jay Baldwin of Reliable Contracting Co. Inc., has threatened to build 500,000 square feet of warehouse space instead of a village center, noting numerous delays in zoning approvals. Stamato had said that such a change would force him to redraw the project and build more retail space and potentially a hotel.

"All of us would prefer not to see the warehouses," Stamato said.


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