By Len Lazarick
What was billed as an “update” of the proposed move of the Housing Department from Crownsville to New Carrollton provided no new information to the increasing frustration and anger of the Anne Arundel County Delegation Friday.
“This is almost an insult to our intelligence and disrespectful to the General Assembly to be making this ridiculous argument,” Del. Steve Schuh, R, told Michael Gaines, assistant secretary for real estate of the Department of General Service.
Gaines said he meant no disrespect, but calmly repeated the same limited information he provided at a November hearing.
The state is proposing to move the Department of Housing and Community Development from a 20-year-old state-owned building in Crownsville to rental space in a yet-to-be-built high rise near the New Carrollton Metro station in Prince George’s County.
Gaines said the state was still in negotiations with the developer, and he could not discuss the rent on the new space or the cost of the move. The department is even refusing to release the 2010 feasibility study that helped justify the move.
In November, Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold speculated that the space in a new building would cost $48 million over the next 15 years. Gaines said that the state estimated the current building would cost $22 million to operate over the next 15 years.
Del. Ron George, chairman of the Anne Arundel County House delegation, said, “There is this overall sentiment that this move makes no sense.”
Despite that, George said a conversation with Gov. Martin O’Malley indicated it was a done deal. “That horse is already out of the gate,” the governor told George, according to the delegate.
The move fulfills a 2010 campaign promise by O’Malley to move a major state agency to a transit-oriented development spot in Prince George’s County.
The contract for the move must still be approved by the Board of Public Works, and money for the move must be appropriated in this year’s budget.
“I’m not sure there is anything we can do to prevent it,” said Sen. Ed DeGrange, an Anne Arundel Democrat who chairs two budget subcommittees. DeGrange sent a letter to O’Malley opposing the move. He said it makes no sense to move employees from a building the state owns to a new building where the state is paying rent.
A December article by Marta Mossburg in the Daily Record that is still behind a paywall detailed multiple tax and financial problems for Carl Williams, the Prince George’s developer the state is negotiating with to develop the project. Williams is expected to leverage the state’s long-term lease to gain financing for the building.
Earl Kelly of the Capital filed this report on Friday’s hearing.