- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2006

CASCADE, Md. (AP) — The Army has concluded that there is no need for an environmental review of redevelopment plans for the former Fort Ritchie, setting up a legal showdown with neighbors of the old training base in northern Washington County.

“We flatly disagree with the Army’s determination that an environmental-impact statement is not required,” said James H. Lemon, one of two nearby property owners who have filed a federal lawsuit contesting the redevelopment plan.

He predicted that the courts would require an environmental study.

The redevelopment proposed by Columbia-based Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) envisions 673 new homes and 1.7 million square feet of new office space on the 630-acre mountaintop site near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border.

Some of the buildings would be designed for defense or intelligence agencies and contractors, COPT has said.

There is high demand for tight supplies of such secure office space in the region.

The Army’s 2005 Record of Environmental Consideration states that the density of the proposed development is not significantly different than that proposed in a 1997 development plan, the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reported yesterday.

“It is the Army’s determination that there is no significant new information regarding the proposed action, the affected environment or the environmental consequences that require additional analysis,” the Army document shows.

The lawsuit that Mr. Lemon and Robin Biser filed in May contends that COPT’s plan proposes “excessive” building density and commercial employment.

COPT aims to create as many as 1,400 jobs at the site over nine years.

In January, a traffic study commissioned by COPT concluded that the surrounding roads could support the additional traffic with only minor improvements.

COPT has agreed to buy the property from PenMar Development Corp., an entity created by the state in 1997 to redevelop the former base, which the Army closed in 1998. The sale has been stalled by an unrelated legal dispute with a former tenant.

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