Cumberland Times-News

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February 20, 2013

Canal Place cans capital funds request

Authority director withdraws appeal to O’Malley, delegation

CUMBERLAND — With no bidders biting at the chance to rehabilitate and develop the Footer Dye Works building, a request for $2.5 million in capital funds from the state’s fiscal 2014 budget has been formally withdrawn.

Even before the withdrawal, the request by the Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority wasn’t going anywhere. Lacking consensus, members of the District 1 legislative delegation took no action on the request.

Funding requests rarely move forward without delegation support and introduction of a bond bill by local legislators.

Dee Dee Ritchie, executive director of the authority, withdrew the request in letters to members of the legislative delegation and Gov. Martin O’Malley on Wednesday. Ritchie cited the lack of bidders interested in developing the property.

“Please note that this is a temporary setback for Canal Place,” Ritchie wrote to O’Malley. “There are many other projects moving forward in the Canal Place Heritage Area,” Ritchie said.

A Feb. 11 letter by Ritchie to O’Malley said that the capital budget request for the Footer Dye Works building had the “full support” of the District 1 legislative delegation.

Delegation members had not publicly committed to introducing a bond bill or taking other action in support of the request.

Delegation members had expressed support for Canal Place in general, and some members indicated they would support a state funding request with conditions, mainly centering on finding a developer that has a firm commitment to the project.

Delegate Kevin Kelly has explicity opposed using any state tax dollars to rehabilitate the Footer Dye Works building.

Kelly said the only way he’d change his mind would be if a developer signs a formal agreement to develop the building.

Other delegation members also sought assurance of a clear plan for the property before supporting using additional public funds for the project. The Allegany County Chamber of Commerce also opposed the capital funding request in a January letter to Andy Vick, chairman of the authority.

“The chamber respectfully urges the CPPDA to carefully consider alternatives to the use of additional public funds to renovate the exterior of the Footer Dye Works building. ... Additional public funds should not be used if a viable developer cannot be secured in a reasonable amount of time. If a viable developer is secured, additional public funds should not be released without a strict contractual and financial commitment from the developer,” the chamber letter said.

Contact Matthew Bieniek at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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