Bainbridge Development Corporation and developers for the 1,200- acre former U.S. Navy base unveiled a new, more industrial vision for the property Tuesday to Cecil County Council.
At the same time, they reached out to the county to help them get 600 feet of new sewer line extended from the property to the county-owned sewage treatment plant in Port Deposit.
“Sewer line extension is critical to move this forward,” said Ken Michaels, a development partner for Bainbridge, along with John Paterakis and Richard Alter.
“This would allow us to actively market the property,” BDC Chairman Michael R. Pugh added.
“We all need to work together to get this connection done,” he said, calling it “the single most important issue right now.”
Michaels said his best guess is that officials could start development at Bainbridge by the end of this year, depending on a settlement with the Navy and meeting their water and sewer needs.
Original development plans announced about seven years ago included a mixed-use development of residential, office, retail and industrial usage, but soil contamination discovered over the entire site a few years ago has prompted the developers to take a different look at their plans.
This new vision is primarily commercial and industrial usage with only 150 acres at the former Tome School site set aside for a mixture of office, educational and residential uses.
“Our original vision is un-doable now because of the amount of mitigation needed for residential development,” Pugh said.
The new vision is thought to be more practical and less costly by those involved.
“It’s more short-term achievable,” Pugh said.
BDC leadership has been negotiating with the U.S. Navy for the last few years to find a way to clean up the site, pay for it and redevelop the 1,200 acres into a viable taxable use, which would also create jobs and boost the economy.
Port Deposit Mayor Wayne Tome likes the new plan, which was presented to the town council a week earlier.
“We’re going to work with the Bainbridge Development Corporation to resurrect it,” Tome said Tuesday. “We’ve already been talking about it.”
One of the first projects for the town is to change its comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance to include this new concept, which scales back houses in favor of industry. The town also has to annex a small portion of land that was missed 20 years ago when a majority of the Bainbridge was annexed into town limits.
“We’re looking at light industrial, straight up to warehouse distribution,” Michaels said.
“We’ve had at least six new seriously interested prospects,” said Donna Tapley, executive director of the BDC, indicating that they lost a “really good food distributor prospect.”
Michaels confirmed the loss, saying the prospect needed to move quickly and needed a water and sewer promise, which the developers were not able to make.
He told the county council Tuesday that his development group is moving ahead with an economic feasibility study for the new vision.
“Industrial use generates one heck-of-an income and a lot of taxes,” said Michaels, who has been in the real estate development business in Maryland for more than 50 years. “You’ll be flabbergasted.”
Tome said he is prepared to work with the developer to make the new plan a reality. What he doesn’t want, however, is for the property to become nothing but warehouses.
“We want some high-tech companies in there,” he said. “There’s still potential for some of that.”
For Tome, productivity is the key to the success of the project.
“The site is not producing any jobs, it’s not producing any tax revenue,” he said. “I’m tired of the ups and downs.”
Michaels said he believes Bainbridge is “the perfect place for an industrial park.”
“It’s got electric, gas, railroad, water and access to Interstate 95,” he said. “What else can you ask for?”
The development partners for the bulk of Bainbridge have no contractual obligation to the formerTome School site, Pugh explained to the county council.
“We set aside 100 acres to accompany the 50 acres of Tome School as an ancillary parcel to make it more attractive to a developer. Under any scenario, this site will require some heavy lifting,” Pugh said.
In the short-term, the BDC and the development team hopes to attract commercial industrial users to the site, admitting they have more hoops to go through, but they feel it is a viable solution.