May 28--The board of the Baltimore Development Corp. voted unanimously in March to back a request from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank for $535 million in city financing to support his plan to redevelop Port Covington with a dense, mixed-use project, including a new Under Armour campus.
Despite appearances, some members raised serious questions about the deal's details behind closed doors.
Last week, the BDC released previously sealed minutes from meetings that were closed to the public. The release came after the state Open Meetings Compliance Board said the city's economic development body improperly barred the public and reporters. The advisory opinion came after a complaint filed by The Baltimore Sun and other news outlets.
Sagamore Development Co., Plank's private real estate firm, requested $535 million in tax increment financing to pay for roads, parks, sewers and other projects. The so-called TIF bonds would be sold to investors and repaid by new property taxes generated by the project.
While the minutes show board members support the plan and think it will be a boon to the city, some raised concerns similar to those aired by community groups, unions and others.
They asked about the impact on school funding, the city's bond rating and borrowing capacity, and a profit-sharing agreement. According to the minutes, others questioned:
--The "high-end" extent of the planned infrastructure.
Sagamore initially approached the BDC board with a $400 million request but it increased to $535 million after the addition of several items, including an internal rail circulator, West Shore Park and an entertainment district plaza.
The city doesn't want to eliminate line items to shrink the TIF because it wants the flexibility afforded by a TIF large enough to cover unexpected costs, Colin Tarbert, deputy mayor for economic and neighborhood development, told board members. That reduces the likelihood the city would need to dip into other funds for the project in the future, he said.
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