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Rawlings-Blake administration declines to release details of Port Covington financing deal

Baltimore officials are declining to release details about the $535 million tax increment financing proposal for the massive Port Covington development in South Baltimore.

In a letter to The Baltimore Sun, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's administration rejected the news organization's public records request for an analysis of the deal, citing the "deliberative process" exemption in the Maryland Public Information Act.

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Such analyses typically include estimates on the size of the tax breaks the project will receive in addition to the tax increment financing, a full accounting of what projects would be funded, the amount of interest the tax-increment bonds are expected to accrue over time, and the developer's rate of return.

"To date, the City has not made a final decision," Benjamin A. Bor, a special assistant city solicitor wrote to The Sun. "As such, this project is still in the early stages of the Tax Increment Financing process. The requested document is, therefore, currently protected from disclosure by the deliberative process privilege."

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Rawlings-Blake has expressed support for the project, saying it represents "one of these defining moments in Baltimore's history where we are a witness to a major transformation."

Gov. Larry Hogan has also expressed support.

Billionaire Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is attempting to transform the peninsula with offices, homes, shopping, restaurants, parks and a state-of-the-art campus for his growing company. Under the proposal, the city money would help pay for streets, utilities, parks, and highway and transit improvements for the roughly $5.5 billion project.

Sagamore Development, Plank's private real estate firm, estimates that infrastructure for the project would cost in excess of $1.1 billion. It plans to seek another $574 million in federal and state funds to cover the cost.

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The Sun has joined the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Brew in filing a complaint to the Open Meetings Compliance Board in the Maryland attorney general's office after a Baltimore Development Corp. committee held three closed-door meetings about the Port Covington deal.

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