Group opposes county building plans
We are a group of business and property owners in Prince Frederick. We are concerned because of the Board of County Commissioners’ plan to spend in excess of $40 million to construct a brand new 120,000-square-foot county office building at the old armory location and to relocate the majority of county staff and services to this new county office building.
We oppose this plan for the following reasons:
First is the cost. The county has obtained bonding authority from the state of Maryland to issue $41.9 million in municipal bonds to finance this county office building. That is, the county intends to borrow $41.9 million to finance the construction of this new county office building. So, not only will we be paying for the cost of constructing this huge county office building, but our children and grandchildren will be paying interest on this debt for years to come. Not a wise use of citizen and taxpayer money.
Second, the armory building site is prime commercial retail property and could be part of a vibrant Armory Square project. Using this property to construct a county office building just makes no sense. County office buildings should be located in an area set aside and designated for governmental services. They should not be located in the middle of a commercial development. Who wants to fight through the traffic of a commercial shopping center to go check on a building permit or visit a county government office? Ask yourself, in how many shopping malls, commercial town centers (e.g., Parole Town Center, Bowie Town Center), do you see a county services building? The answer is none — because it makes no sense. Use the prime retail commercial space for retail commercial uses — and collect the real estate taxes that such uses will generate.
Finally, constructing a 120,000-square-foot building and relocating county services and staff to Armory Square will gut downtown Prince Frederick and set back the progress that has been made to redevelop downtown. Now, certain members of the current board of commissioners will tell you that there is not enough room in downtown Prince Frederick to locate a new 120,000-square-foot building. Well, they may be right — there may not be area to locate a building of that size. But there is certainly enough area to locate several smaller, more modest-sized buildings in more of a “campus-style” development, where all of the government services are easily accessible from one another.
The fact is the current board of commissioners has been unable to devel- op the Armory Square project. It’s been going on for years with no meaningful progress. Because of this failure, they are looking to have the county government save them by using this new county office building to serve as the “anchor” for this project.
Members of our group are divided on the development of the Armory Square project. Some members are in favor of development of this project and some are opposed. However, we are united in our opposition to the use of over $40 million of hard-earned taxpayer money to fund this project, to waste prime retail commercial land and to gut downtown Prince Frederick. We believe more study is needed to fully evaluate all alternatives to keep county services and staff in Prince Frederick.
If you agree with our concerns, please let your voices be heard and talk to the current board of commissioners. And, with the election just around the corner, please ask the candidates running for county commissioner whether they support this colossal waste of taxpayer money or if they are committed to finding a better way.
The writer is writing on behalf of a group of concerned Main Street citizens.