CUMBERLAND — Vigorous debate continued at the regular meeting of the mayor and city council Tuesday as they attempt to decide whether to back a nomination to place the Footer Dye Works building on the National Register of Historic Places or vote to withhold support.
Michael Cohen, city attorney, told those attending that the nomination process can still move forward without the support of the city, but also spoke to the positive message their support could have.
“From the standpoint of those who have the power to recommend the nomination, it would be beneficial to (support it) if you see the benefit,” said Cohen.
A placement of the Footer Dye Works building on the national register would make it eligible for a 20 percent federal tax credit, which would be attractive for potential developers.
Local dermatologist Sean McCagh, who has been vocal in opposition to the Footer project, spoke during public input.
He referenced the recent attempt to secure a developer that saw no takers out of 19 developers who obtained information packets for possible bids.
“No developers have stepped forward. It was zero for 19. Let the market decide,” said McCagh.
Officials have said the national register listing will not affect the ability to demolish the structure sometime in the future. However, Cohen spoke of the likelihood that the state of Maryland, who owns the property, would ever tear it down.
“Getting it in a position where it would in fact be demolished is rather difficult,” said Cohen.
“The obstacle in tearing the building down occurred the day the state purchased the building,“ said Jeff Rhodes, city administrator.
Dee Dee Ritchie, executive director for the Canal Place Preservation and Development Authority, verified the state purchased the property in 1992 for $225,000.
“All I’m asking is what the community is asking. It matters to your constituents whether you support it or not. Don’t support putting it on the national register,” said McCagh.
Rick Thayer, the vice chair of the Canal Place authority, spoke for the nomination.
“Without the tax credit, developers can not be assured the money is in place,” said Thayer.
Thayer told the council the only money that has been invested into the building is state grant money.
A representative from Seawall Development, who specializes in rehabilitating historic brick structrures, said the Footer building is in pristine condition, according to Thayer.
“I submit that we have a good building and I ask for your support,” said Thayer.
Thayer said the project will benefit from an expiration of options in August 2013 that exist on Parcel B, adjacent to Footer, that will make way for expansion and parking.
The option is held by Tressel Development along with other individuals, according to Thayer.
The Times-News has heard from multiple sources that Parcel B may also have a lawsuit attached to the property which could further encumber the project.
Mayor Brian Grim said he expects the vote on the nomination will take place at the next regular meeting on March 12.
Grim, who serves on the Canal Place authority, and councilwoman Nicole Wagoner, who is employed by a tenant of Canal Place, have recused themselves from the vote based on conflict of interest.
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