- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A technology park planned for Bryans Road is not going forward, as the public-private venture among Corporate Office Properties Trust, Facchina Group of Cos. and Charles County has been dissolved.
“We have decided to dissolve the public-private economic agreement we had for Charles County,” said Stephanie Krewson, vice president of investor relations with COPT.
Two reasons for the “difficult decision” to end the agreement were the broader economic decline and the lack of jobs being relocated to the Indian Head Naval Surface Warfare Center as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process, Krewson said.
“My understanding is that Facchina and COPT anticipated that it would receive additional commissions from the 2005 BRAC, but Charles County did not receive the BRAC jobs and force that came with it,” Krewson said.
COPT sent a letter Aug. 7 to the county government notifying officials of the decision to dissolve the agreement, Krewson said.
COPT and Facchina jointly made the decision to end the agreement, Krewson said.
“COPT is the managing member of the joint venture and they will have to respond to any major decisions made by the joint venture,” Charles McPherson, chief operating officer with Facchina, said Monday.
On Tuesday, McPherson said, “We’re going to follow the decision of our partners. I am disappointed and I will personally continue to work to bring new jobs to Charles County.”
The agreement originally was reached in 2006 with the intention to bring high-paying technology jobs to the county.
As part of the contract, the county agreed to pay for water and sewer infrastructure to the property, widen roads for traffic if necessary and assist in getting fiber-optic cables to the site.
The joint venture had moved forward by marketing to Department of Defense contractors, getting approvals for its master and general development plans and studying the environmental and traffic impacts of the park, Krewson said.
“We kept moving in good faith hoping things would work out,” Krewson said.
In March, the tech park received a preliminary plan approval from the Charles County Planning Commission for 15 commercial lots on 260.52 acres.
At that time, no tenants had agreed to move into the tech park.
British ejection-seat company Martin-Baker was a potential tenant for the park in 2009, but did not open a facility in Charles County.
Proponents of the Indian Head Science and Technology Park argued that the park would support the activities at the Naval Support Facility Indian Head base and provide economic development for western Charles County.
The location of the proposed park, south of Bryans Road on Route 227, has generated opposition from advocates for the Mattawoman Creek because approximately 40 percent of the park’s site is located in the creek’s watershed. In addition to environmental concerns, opponents argued that the park’s location should be closer to the Navy base in Indian Head.
Interested parties reacted to the decision Tuesday.
Bonnie Bick, a Southern Maryland representative with the Maryland Sierra Club, said that going forward with the tech park would have been bad because of the damage it would cause to the Mattawoman Creek stream valley.
“It’s extremely high-value Mattawoman stream valley land. It needs to be protected and preserved. It’s ideal for an outdoor education center right next to the schools,” Bick said.
Matthew Henson Middle School and J.C. Parks Elementary School are adjacent to the property’s eastern edge.
Vince Hungerford, president of the Western Charles County Business Association, said he was disappointed to see the dissolution of the agreement.
“I see [the park] as having some potential to strengthen the western part of Charles County and the base with the BRAC situation,” Hungerford said, “I think we need to do all we can to have the support in place when that happens.”
Hungerford said he understood the business decision in light of economic conditions, but added that he hasn’t given up on the park.
“Of course it is a disappointment and it is a setback for District 2. It would have been a gem for the area. Hopefully it is a temporary setback,” said Charles County Commissioner Debra M. Davis (D), whose district includes the site of the tech park. “Facchina has been a great partner with the county for a long time. I am optimistic that we can move forward in a different way with the tech park.”
Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) added, “I don’t find it surprising. I never felt that the location was viable and when you add on that the base itself is entertaining the idea of opening up a small tech park, that makes more sense. The location chosen in Bryans Road was environmentally sensitive, so I am pleased to hear the location will likely remained undeveloped.”
Constellation Energy and the U.S. Navy are in negotiations for the energy company to build a 30-megawatt natural gas plant, a 200,000-square-foot data center and a 250,000-square-foot office building at Naval Support Facility Indian Head.