Group op­poses county build­ing plans

The Calvert Recorder - - Letters To The Editor -

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.

Sally Showal­ter,

Prince Fred­er­ick

The writer is writ­ing on be­half of a group of con­cerned Main Street cit­i­zens.

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